FAQ’s on Stellgate Ganglion Block

What is a stellate ganglion block?

A stellate ganglion block is an injection of local anesthetic performed to relieve pain by blocking the stellate ganglion, a sympathetic nerve tissue formed by the first thoracic ganglion and inferior cervical ganglion. The nerve tissue is found at the level of the 6th and 7th cervical vertebrae, anterior to the first rib and near the subclavian artery. The stellate ganglion can be injured or inflamed, causing pain in the neck, head, arm or chest, hence the need for the injection. The injection reduces symptoms such as swelling, pain, color and extreme sweating in the head, face, hands and arms and can also improves mobility.

What is the goal of stellate ganglion block?

The stellate ganglion block is aimed at helping a patient to relieve pain located in the neck, head, arm or chest caused by sympathetically mediated pain, nerve injury, shingles or decreased flow of blood to the heart. It’s also done to improve blood flow in patients with blood circulation problems due to vascular diseases.

How is the stellate ganglion block procedure performed?

The stellate ganglion block procedure is performed while a patient lying on his or her back. The patient is sedated and monitored with devices such as thermometers, oxygen-monitoring devices and blood pressure cuffs. The anesthetic medication is then injected in the stellate ganglion with help of a fine needle using fluoroscopy. The medicine reduces the pain by block the sensitive nerves ability to transmit pain signals to the brain.

How long does the procedure take to perform? 

The stellate ganglion block takes about 8-10 minutes. Patients with pain in their heads remain lying on their backs, while patients with pain in their arms sit up for the medicine to spread downwards. The medicine takes about 15-20 minutes to show full effect. Patients normally stay in the recovery room for 30 -60 minutes for the doctor to monitor their pulse, temperature and blood pressure.

 How long do the effects from the stellate ganglion block last? 

The effects of the stellate ganglion block may last for several hours up to several weeks or longer. Patients may feel tenderness in the neck and have droopy eyes immediately after the injection is administered. They may also develop hoarse voice and have difficulties in swallowing. The effects are temporary and disappear after the anesthetic dissipates. The relief effect of chronic symptoms can take longer and may be a few days after the injection.

What are the side effects of the stellate ganglion block? 

The risks of the stellate ganglion block can include seizure, collapsed lung, and numb arm, temporary weakness around the neck, nerve damage, allergic reaction and needle bruising. Some other temporary effects are bloodshot eye, temperature increase especially in the arm and stuffy nose. The injection may worsen medical conditions such as diabetes or heart diseases.

What conditions are treatable with the stellate ganglion block? 

The stellate ganglion block is used to treat Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Herpes Zoster (shingles) Sympathetic Maintained Pain involving head and face or arm. The injection may reduce pain, color, swelling and extreme sweating and improve mobility. A series of the blocks may be recommended to give a patient long term relief.

How effective is the stellate ganglion block for the relief of pain? 

The stellate ganglion block is mainly effective on patients who present themselves during the early stages of their illnesses. Patients with advanced symptoms may not respond well to the injection. The injection is effective in reducing pain in the upper body and also in the treatment of complex regional pain and sympathetic maintained pain.