FAQ’s on Stellate Ganglion Block
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The stellate ganglion is a formation of sympathetic nervous tissue, created by a union of the inferior cervical ganglion and the first thoracic ganglion. The ganglion is located between the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, fixed anteriorly to rib number one. As these are sympathetic nerves, they provide no motor function for a patient, but instead govern the sensation of the surrounding tissues.
When patients are having symptomatic pain in the tissue of the throat, neck, or face, a block to the stellate ganglion has a very strong chance of providing pain relief. A ganglion block is the injection of anesthetic into the nerve bundle to numb it, where it will then cease transmission of pain signals to the brain.
What will a Stellate Ganglion Block treat?
Almost any condition a patient is experiencing in tissue governed by the stellate ganglion can potentially have relief provided to it through a stellate ganglion block. Specific conditions that are treatable are excessive sweating in the face, arms, hands, or head, discoloration of the face, swelling of tissue, and a SGB may be able to restore full or partial function to patients impaired by the compression of a cervical nerve root.
A pilot study (Pilot evaluation of a stellate ganglion block for the treatment of hot flashes, 2011) is currently under progress into the effectiveness of a stellate ganglion block on patients experiencing chronic hot flashes. Other known treatments include symptomatic relief for pain caused by nerve injury, shingles, or an alteration in the flow of blood to a patient’s heart. A singular case study (Effect of Combination of Trigger Point Injection and Stellate Ganglion Block on Non-odontogenic Mandibular Molar Pain Referred from Masseter Muscle, 2013) has found a stellate ganglion block, when combined with trigger point injections, to be a very effective means of treating referred dental pain in the face.
Patients who are experiencing olfactory dysfunction may be able to obtain lasting symptomatic relief with a stellate ganglion block according to a recent study (Long-term Results of Stellate Ganglion Block in Patients with Olfactory Dysfunction, 2013)
How is a Stellate Ganglion Block performed?
Patients will be asked to lie on their back, where they will be placed under the effects of intravenous sedation to make their procedural experience comfortable. The typical stellate ganglion block can be performed in approximately 15 minutes, with patients carefully monitored throughout to ensure there are no complications.
There are two reasons a stellate ganglion block may be performed: as a diagnostic tool, and as a therapeutic treatment. Patients receiving a diagnostic block will be given only a small amount of numbing agent to examine the reaction by the ganglion. If symptomatic pains cease, it is very likely that the stellate ganglion is the root source of pain. Once confirmed as a source of pain, patients may be given a therapeutic block that uses much more anesthetic to promote a lasting effect.
The full effect of a therapeutic block is achieved by administering a series of blocks to the patient, with each subsequent injection beyond the first providing a more thorough amount of relief that tends to last longer. The exact number of injections a patient will require to obtain full relief can vary on an individual basis. There an increase of effect the closer the block is received to the appearance of symptoms.
What are the risks of a Stellate Ganglion Block?
There is very little risk associated with a stellate ganglion block, with the largest risks being pain, swelling, or infection at the injection site. Some patients may also experience an allergic reaction to the numbing agent used. The single largest risk is that the injection will not be able to provide a therapeutic effect for patients, although the treatment is successful nearly 75% of the time.