FAQs on Stellate Ganglion Blocks
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The stellate ganglion is a nerve bundle (ganglion) located in the interior of the neck that serves to provide sensation to the surrounding tissue. This tissue, which is primarily part of the sympathetic nervous system, functions by providing feeling to the arms and to certain parts of a patients face. When a patient is having symptomatic pains in these areas, a stellate ganglion block can provide immediate relief with the injection of a numbing agent into the ganglion.
For many patients, the numbing agent used will be used in tandem with a steroidal supplement. The numbing agent acts on the nerves by blocking their transmission of pain signals to the brain while the steroidal supplement serves to prolong the duration of relief.
What will a Stellate Ganglion Block treat?
The exact symptomatic pains that can be treated with a stellate ganglion block are numerous due to the large amount of tissue the stellate ganglion provides sensations to. Nearly any condition that is present in the arms or face and that is occurring in tissue governed by the stellate ganglion can obtain relief by blocking the nerves.
- Facial pain
- Discoloration of tissue
- Swelling in the arms or face
- Excessive sweating
Conditions which can obtain relief through a stellate ganglion block include:
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Sympathetic Maintained Pain
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
How is a Stellate Ganglion Block performed?
To be administered properly, the numbing agent used must be injected into deep tissue which can cause slight discomfort even after a patient receives local anesthetic. To avoid potential pain, many patients receiving a stellate ganglion block may be placed under the effects of intravenous sedation. The procedure is typically performed with patients in a seated position with a raised chin and the head turned away from the area of the neck receiving the injection. The injection site will be sterilized and numbed in preparation for the needle.
Once the skin of the neck has been fully numbed, the stellate ganglion will have an injection needle guided into it with fluoroscopic imaging for guidance. This imaging technique uses X-rays taken in quick succession to create a current image, formed in real-time, of where the needle is located. After correctly guiding the needle into a patients’ ganglion, the attending physician will administer both the numbing agent and the steroidal supplement.
How well do Stellate Ganglion Blocks work?
There are two functions of a stellate ganglion block: as a diagnostic tool and as a therapeutic injection for patients with pain that have confirmed the stellate ganglion as a source.
- Patients who are receiving a therapeutic block should feel the effects of the numbing agent immediately provided the local anesthetic has been given time to wear off. The duration of relief gained by each patient can vary. For patients who undergo a successful therapeutic block, the injections can be repeated as often as required to maintain long-term relief.
- For patients receiving a diagnostic block, only a small amount of numbing agent will be used. If the symptomatic pains stop once the nerves have been numbed, it is likely that a therapeutic block that uses a larger amount of numbing agent will be able to provide more effective relief.
What are the risks of a Stellate Ganglion Block?
There is a small risk of soreness, bleeding, or infection at the injection site. There is also a risk of having an allergic reaction to the numbing agent or the steroid used. The largest risk is that a therapeutic stellate ganglion block will not prove effective in obtaining relief for the patient.
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