The stellate ganglion is a group of sympathetic nerves that are located in the neck on either side of the vocal cords. Located in front of the sixth and seventh vertebrae, these nerves relay signals to and from the arms and the face. Injury or infection may result in pain. A stellate ganglion block may help to reduce the pain in affected areas.
The block is an injection of local anesthesia into the front of the neck in order to reach the stellate ganglion nerves that are located in front of the cervical spine. The injection may include steroids or other medications as determined by your physician.
Purpose of This Block
Your physician may order a stellate ganglion block in order to reduce pain caused by nerve damage, shingles, intractable angina, or other pain disorders. These injections can also be used as a diagnostic tool to determine the source of pain or to see if blood flow can be increased to certain areas. This nerve block is also used to control sweating in the areas of the face, arm, or neck.
The Stellate Ganglion Block Procedure
You will most likely be given an IV in order to relax you. A local anesthetic may also be injected near where the needle for the block will be inserted. The stellate ganglion block needle will be inserted through the neck and into the deeper tissue where the medication is then released. Depending on where your pain is located, you may be required to sit up or remain lying down shortly following the procedure.
What to Expect
You may feel a warmth or tingling sensation in your arm or face following the injection. Your pain may lessen or disappear right away or within the next 10 to 20 minutes. The injection site may be painful and may become bruised. When the anesthetic begins to affect the nerve bundle, you may feel a lump in your throat or experience hoarseness. You may also develop nasal congestion, especially on the side of the injection. You may even develop a headache. Side effects should dissipate after 4 to 6 hours.
Contraindications of Stellate Ganglion Block
While this procedure is considered safe for most patients, you should not have this done if you have very high blood pressure or if you take certain medications, such as blood thinners. Additionally, you will need to wait if you have an infection, a cold, the flu, or a fever.
Following your procedure, it is important to follow all instructions provided by the physician. Because you may have numbness or limited movement, you will not be able to drive for the remainder of the day. You should also take it easy for the rest of the day. You should wait for four hours to eat or drink anything so that you can safely do so due to numbness in the throat area. You will most likely be able to return to normal activity the following day.