The stellate ganglion block is a sympathetic nerve block the doctor uses to determine if there has been damage to the sympathetic nerve chain (a nerve network that extends the length of the spine) supplying the region of the upper torso.
This network of nerves controls a portion of the body’s involuntary functions, including opening and constricting the blood vessels and when damaged, will send pain signals to the brain. The stellate ganglion block is mainly used as a diagnostic tool, but is also performed to alleviate pain.
An example of Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Person suffers from vascular constriction which leads to decreased blood flow to the hands.
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The overlying consideration is to help alleviate neck or arm pain that does not have a surgical indication.
If an individual has a neck surgery that ends up failing, a spinal cord stimulator may provide excellent back and/or leg pain relief. This may be able to reduce the amount of pain medication necessary and help patients get back to working and playing with their kids.
Along with failed neck surgery, if an individual ends up forming scar tissue around one or more peripheral nerve roots, chronic leg pain may result after spine surgery as well. This is called post laminectomy syndrome and is not amenable to a revision surgery. A spinal cord stimulator may be an excellent last resort for pain control.
In addition, post-thoracotomy syndrome can receive benefit from the procedure as well. This occurs when an individual has a surgery involving a thoracotomy. It may be for a tumor or scoliosis or another condition. The end result may be a successful procedure for the underlying condition, with chronic and unbearable pain resulting around the incision.
How is a stellate ganglion block performed?
A stellate ganglion block is basically an injection to the sympathetic nerve tissue of the neck of a local anesthetic. The injection can be done on either side of the neck as these nerves are located on either side. Epinephrine or steroid medication is, at times, added to prolong the effects of the stellate ganglion block injection.
What type of patient is the best candidate for stellate ganglion block?
Patients who are still in the early stage of their condition or have acute pain symptoms have more successful outcomes with the blocking of sympathetic nerves.
This may include RSD/CRPS in the upper extremities.
Temporary Horner’s syndrome can result from a stellate ganglion block. Notice the drooping eyelid and constricted pupil.
Patients with complicated or advanced stages of any serious health condition may not have an effective response to the block. These include patients with:
any active infections located near the site of injection
poorly controlled heart disease or diabetes
any blood thinning medications
allergies are previous reactions to the medications to be injected
Purposes of a Stellate Ganglion Block?
Some injuries, especially to the upper extremities, can cause a burning and extraordinary pain known as complex regional pain syndrome, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy. A small injection of the local aesthetic (stellate ganglion blocks) can be used to identify whether or not the pain is carried by the sympathetic nerve system.
The local anesthetic blocks the sympathetic nerves that are connected to the arms and face. The injection is, therefore, useful in reducing pain, swelling, color changes, and sweating in cases of injury to the upper extremities. It is also performed as part of treatment for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RDS), Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Sympathetic Maintained Pain and Shingles to the head or arms.
What is expected after a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The stellate ganglion block only takes a few seconds to set in. Therefore, almost immediately after the injection, the patient may have a warm feeling in their arms. The patient may also notice pain symptoms going away or subsiding almost immediately. Patients have reported feeling like they have a lump in their throat or a hoarse voice. A droopy and red eye, headache, and nasal congestion are also some of the possible effects of patient can expect after a stellate ganglion block injection.
Pain symptoms may vary depending on the patient. These effects might also be termed as the side effects of a stellate ganglion block injection to some degree.
What should I do after a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The best thing to do after a stellate ganglion block injection is to take it as easy as possible. Take a day or so off work and take a rest. Depending on the patient’s reaction to the injection, the patient usually can go back to work after a few hours keeping within reasonable activities.
How long do the effects of the Medication last?
The anesthetic usually wears off after a few hours. The blocking of the sympathetic nerves, however, may last longer. With each additional injection, the duration of pain relief lasts longer for the patient.
If you or a loved one would like to learn more about Stellate Ganglion Blocks and how the procedure can help you, contact Texas Pain Network today.
Texas Pain Network is the top San Antonio pain management clinic, offering all types of modern, cutting edge procedures for pain relief. Most insurance is accepted.
Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!