FAQs on Stellate Ganglion Block in Nashville TN

The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves positioned on either side of the voice box (larynx). The stellate ganglion block is an injection of anesthetic agent around the nerve tissue that supplies the head, neck, arms, and upper chest. This block increases blood supply to the arm and relieves pain associated with the upper body.

Why is the stellate ganglion block done?

The stellate ganglion block is done to treat neuropathic pain. Conditions treated with this block include complex regional pain syndrome, herpes zoster, and sympathetic pain. The injection is used to block the sympathetic nerve impulse and block swelling and pain. The stellate ganglion block will produce one of three outcomes:

  • The pain will not leave, and there will be evidence of a sympathetic block.
  • The pain will not leave, and there will be not evidence of sympathetic block.
  • The pain will go away and stay away.

How is the stellate ganglion block performed?

The nurse will first assess the temperature of both arms by placing sensing-pads on the extremities. In addition, an IV catheter will be placed in your arm to give you a mild sedative to minimize discomfort. You will be positioned on your back, and the nurse will cleanse the front of your neck with an antiseptic solution. The skin and deeper tissues are numbed with a local anesthetic, which is given at the side of the neck. The doctor then inserts the block needle using x-ray guidance and injects a long-acting anesthetic close to the stellate ganglion nerves.

What happens after the injection?

Immediately after the stellate ganglion block injection, you may feel warmth in your arm or leg on the injected side. In addition, you will notice that the pain is decreased or eliminated. Other side effects include hoarseness, redness of the eye, and droopy eyelid. These symptoms are only temporary and will resolve in a few hours. During the recovery, a nurse will monitor your condition. You will be released home and can return to work the next day.

How long does the effects of the medication last?

The local anesthetic wears off within only a few hours, but the duration of pain relief will increase in length with each addition injection you receive. You may need to have 2-4 injections to achieve optimal results.

What are the risks and complications of the stellate ganglion block?

The stellate ganglion block is a safe and effective procedure, but there are some risks involved. These include infection, bleeding, pneumothorax (collapsed lung), and blood vessel damage.

Who is not a candidate for this procedure?

The stellate ganglion block does not work for everyone. People who are not candidates for this procedure include:

  • Individuals with an active infection
  • Anyone allergic to anesthetics
  • Persons on Heparin, Coumadin, or other blood-thinning medicines

What is the success rate of the stellate ganglion block?

In a 2009 study, the stellate ganglion block proved 100% successful for improvement of wrist range of motion. According to recent clinical studies involving patients with CRPS, the success rate is around 76%. In one study, more than 40% of patients reported complete symptom relief after the block. The effectiveness of this injection depends on the duration of symptoms, with a higher efficacy rate for those who have had symptoms for less than 4 months.

Resources

Ackermann, WE & Zhang, JM (2004). Efficacy of stellate ganglion blockade for the management of type 1 complex regional pain syndrome. Southern Medical Journal, 1084-1088.

Yucel I, Demiraran Y, Ozuran K et al. (2009). Complex regional pain syndrome type I: efficacy of stellate ganglion blockade. J Orthop Traumatology, 10(4), 179-183. doi:  10.1007/s10195-009-0071-5