A stellate ganglion block is an injection into your nerves on either side of the voice box in your neck to reduce symptoms such as pain, swelling, color, and sweating changes in your upper extremities. The stellate ganglion is a collection of nerves located at the front of the vertebrae at the bottom of your neck. Stellate ganglion blocks can reduce pain, aid in the diagnostic process for certain conditions, and increase circulation and blood supply to the arms.
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
Sympathetically maintained pain
Complex regional pain syndrome
Herpes zoster infection, also known as shingles, affecting the head, neck, upper chest, or arm
Phantom limb pain
New research suggests stellate ganglion blocks can help decrease the frequency of your post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related symptoms by regulating the sympathetic nervous system.
Identify the cause of pain in your face, head, arms, and chest
Reduce pain caused by injury to the nerves in your neck, head, chest, or arms
Reduce sweating in your head, face, hands, and arms
Before your procedure, your doctor may tell you to stop taking any immunosuppressant medication to reduce your risk of complications. You cannot receive a stellate ganglion block if you have an active infection, fever, high blood pressure, or take blood thinners. If you become sick with the flu or cold prior to your procedure, you’ll need to reschedule the procedure post-recovery.
During the procedure, you’ll be asked to lay on your back and will typically be sedated. Your neck will be disinfected before the medical professional performing the procedure injects an anesthetic near the stellate ganglion using a continuous x-ray for guidance. You won’t be permitted to talk, cough, or swallow during the procedure, as these activities can move the needle. It typically takes about five to ten minutes for the medication to be injected and about ten to twenty minutes for it to take full effect. Once the medication has been injected, you’ll be asked to sit up if the pain is normally in your arm or remain lying down if your pain is normally located in your head.
Following the injection, you’ll remain in an observation room for about an hour. Once the sedation wears off and the doctor discharges you, you’re able to go home. You’ll need someone to drive you home.
You may experience droopy eyes and tenderness in your neck, which may affect your balance. You cannot eat or drink anything for about four hours after the nerve block, and you cannot drive or operate heavy machinery for the remainder of the day.
The length of pain relief varies by patient, as some report short-term relief before needing another nerve block while others report long-term pain relief. Nerve blocks can become a part of your regular treatment regimen. It’s common to have increased neck pain following the procedure, but this will dissipate within a few days.
While this procedure is safe, there remains a rare risk of complications. Your doctor is aware of these risks and decided the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
Seizure if the medication is injected into a nearby blood vessel
Bleeding, infection, or bruising at the injection site