The stellate ganglion block is an injection procedure used to block or decrease pain located in the head, neck, chest, or arm. It also helps increase circulation. The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves located in the upper neck and is part of the sympathetic nervous system. After an injury, often auto injury or illness, the sympathetic nervous system may not function properly, causing pain. Some of the more common conditions are: complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), causalgia (nerve injury), and herpes zoster (shingles) of the head and face.
The stellate ganglion block is also used to treat intractable angina (severe pain caused by heart disease). If this treatment relieves your pain, the doctor will perform a series of blocks at another time in an attempt to break the pain cycle and provide long lasting pain relief. The number of blocks you will need depends on how long the pain relief lasted between injections. Usually you will get more and longer pain relief after each injection.
The procedure is performed with you lying on your back. After cleansing your neck with an antiseptic solution, Dr. Chowdhury will inject numbing medicine into the skin and tissue.
The doctor will also apply some pressure on your neck to determine exactly where to place the needle. It is very important that you do not talk, swallow, or cough. If you have to swallow or cough, raise your hand to let someone know. The doctor will insert a needle, and when satisfied with the needle position, the doctor will inject a numbing medicine (anesthetic). Although it takes about 10 to 20 minutes for the medication to take effect, you will remain at the Clinic until the doctor feels you are ready to leave. Ultrasound guidance may be used for needle localization.
You need to be aware of several potential side effects. These side effects, which usually disappear four to eight hours after the block may include: A droopy eyelid on the side of the block; Redness and blurred vision in the eye on the side of the block; A feeling like a lump in your throat; Difficulty swallowing; Hoarseness of your voice; Warmth and weakness of the arm on the side of the block. Do not eat solid food until you are comfortable swallowing. Do not drive for the remainder of the day. Please have an adult drive you home or accompany you in a taxi or other public transportation.
Depending on how you feel, you may resume normal activities and return to work the following day. If the doctor prescribes physical therapy, it is very important that you continue with the physical therapy program. Although you may feel much better immediately after the injection (due to the numbing medicine), there is a possibility your pain may return within a few hours. It may take a few days for the steroid medication to start working.