Stellate Ganglion Block
If you have pain in your neck, head, or upper arms that doesn’t respond to medication, you could be a candidate for a stellate ganglion block (SGB). This procedure is highly effective at treating sympathetically mediated pain (SMP), which is a condition that causes your sympathetic nervous system to send pain signals to your brain without a reason.
Here’s what to know about this procedure and what to expect during your stellate ganglion block in Denver.
What Is the Stellate Ganglion?
The stellate ganglion is a cluster of nerves in the front of your neck just below your collarbone. It’s a part of your sympathetic nervous system, which sends signals to your arms, neck, head, and upper chest. These nerves control functions such as sweating, blood pressure, and heart rate.
Interestingly, not everyone has a stellate ganglion. To have one, two ganglia must fuse together. This only happens in about 80% of people.
What Is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
During the stellate ganglion block procedure, your doctor injects an anesthetic medication into your stellate ganglion nerves. Your doctor injects the medication into your neck on either side of the esophagus and trachea. SGB works by reducing the release of the chemical norepinephrine, which is responsible for activating the sensation of pain.
Doctors can also use a stellate ganglion block to diagnose the cause of your pain.
What Conditions Can a Stellate Ganglion Block Treat?
Stellate ganglion blocks can treat a variety of conditions, including:
- Cluster headaches
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
- Phantom limb pain following an amputation
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Refractory cardiac arrhythmias (a condition that affects your heart rate)
- Postherpetic neuralgia
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Intractable angina
- Meniere’s disease
- Raynaud’s syndrome
- Orofacial pain
- Chronic post-surgical pain
Stellate ganglion blocks may also help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for some people. Researchers think that these nerve blocks can reduce sympathetic nervous activity, which is often excessive in people with PTSD. SGBs have shown some promise as a treatment for other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, as well.
What Happens During the Procedure?
When you visit MD Pain for your stellate ganglion block in Denver, here is what you can expect:
- We may give you a mild sedative to help you relax.
- We ask you to lie on your back, then clean and disinfect your neck.
- We inject a local anesthetic into your neck.
- We inject the stellate ganglion block medication with the help of fluoroscopic or ultrasound imaging guidance. Afterward, you’ll wait for about 40 to 60 minutes so we can watch for any bad reactions.
Possible Side Effects
Side effects of stellate ganglion blocks can include:
- Watery or bloodshot eyes
- Droopy eyelids
- Tingling or warmth in your arms or hands
- Trouble swallowing
- Nasal congestion
- Hoarse voice
Start Your Path to Recovery With MD Pain
At MD Pain, we know how difficult it is to live life to the fullest when you’re hurting. If you suffer from chronic pain, you may be a candidate for the stellate ganglion block procedure. Reach out to us at (303) 750-8100 to schedule a stellate ganglion block in Denver today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Upon arrival, you will meet with one of healthcare professionals to discuss your medical history and to ask any questions you may have about the procedure.
You may receive an IV sedative to help relax you. Most patients tolerate the injection very well. During the procedure, you will lie on your back. Once the area is sterilized, a local anesthetic is applied to the skin (feels like a poke and a burn). After that, you most likely will only feel pressure. Your doctor then uses an X-ray to guide the placement of a very thin needle to the proper position. Once in place, your doctor then gradually injects the medication.
You may start feeling relief immediately, though it may take longer to feel the full effects of the procedure. The lasting effects of the treatment differs with everyone, ranging from days to weeks. A series of injections is usually required for treatment with a progressive increase in relief with each injection.
Following the procedure, you will rest in the recovery area. If sedated, you will need a responsible adult to accompany you home. After the injection, you may notice that your pain has lessened. You may also temporarily feel warmth in your arm, and/or experience a hoarse voice, a feeling of a lump in the neck, red or a droopy eye, a stuffy nose on the side of the injection, or soreness in the neck at the injection site. You may go for immediate physical therapy. Otherwise, you will perform activity as tolerated.
You should be able to return to work the next day unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
Overall, the procedure is very safe. As with any procedure, there are risks. The most common side effect is pain, which is temporary. Any time a needle is punctured through the skin, there is a chance of bleeding or infection, though it is very rare. Other rare side effects include spinal headache, nerve damage, worsening of pain, etc., which are extremely unlikely.