FAQs on Stellate Ganglion Block in Atlanta

The stellate ganglion is a group nerves in the neck, which are on either side of the larynx (voice box). The stellate ganglion block is an injection of medicine onto the nerves for the purpose of relieving head, neck, upper chest, and arm pain. This block can also increase blood supply to the arm, improving circulation.

Why are stellate ganglion blocks done?

Stellate ganglion blocks are diagnostic, therapeutic, or both. When you have a stellate ganglion block, one of three things could happen:

  1. The pain does not leave, and there is evidence of a sympathetic block (pain is not responsive: diagnostic).
  2. The pain does not leave, and there is no evidence of a sympathetic block (diagnostic/failed block).
  3. The pain does go away and stays away (therapeutic value).

How many injections will I need?

The spacing of the stellate ganglion block injections is based on how long the pain relief is between the injections. Patients typically receive longer benefit after each injection.

What conditions are treated with a stellate ganglion block?

The stellate ganglion block is used to treat circulation problems and nerve injuries. Conditions treated include:

  • Causalgia
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)

Is a stellate ganglion block right for you?

A stellate ganglion block is used for patients who do not respond to other treatments. Most patients report pain relief immediately after the injection, but it can return after the anesthetic wears off. The steroid begins to work in 2-3 days, and offers long-term relief (weeks).

How is the stellate ganglion block procedure performed?

When you arrive at the medical facility, a nurse will start an IV catheter in your arm to give you a sedative. You will be positioned on your back on a procedure table. The doctor inserts a thin needle into your neck, and injects a local anesthetic agent. Using x-ray guidance, he/she will insert another needle to instill a corticosteroid medicine. The outpatient procedure takes less than 30 minutes.

What can I expect after the procedure?

You are not permitted to drive or do any rigorous activities for 24 hours following the stellate ganglion block, so bring someone with you to drive you home. Once your voice returns to normal pitch and sound, you can sip water through a straw. After several hours, you may eat soft foods and gradually advance to solid items.

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

The risks are low concerning the stellate ganglion block. However, bruising, soreness, and bleeding can occur. Side effects are only temporary and include drooping eyelids, bloodshot eyes, tearing, hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and warmth/tingling of the hand and/or arm.

Who should not have this procedure?

The following persons are not candidates for the stellate ganglion block:

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

How effective is the stellate ganglion block?

In a recent clinical study involving patients with CRPS, 76% of patients reported pain relief, with 40% noting complete symptom alleviation. The effectiveness of the stellate ganglion block depends on the duration of symptoms, with a higher success rate for those with symptoms present for less than 16 weeks before the procedure. In a 2009 study performed to evaluate the stellate ganglion block effectiveness, the block produced statistically significant improvement of wrist range of motion for all patients (100% efficacy).