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Stellate Ganglion Blocks

Provide a Diagnosis and Lasting Relief for Nerve Pain in the Neck, Head, Chest, and Arms

A stellate ganglion block (SGB) treats nerve pain in the upper body and alleviates hot flashes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and vascular disease symptoms.

Stellate Ganglion Block Facts & Information

A stellate ganglion block (SGB) delivers anesthetic medication to a group of nerves, the stellate ganglion, that is found in front of your neck, on either side of the voice box. These nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system, an important messaging network that controls key body functions, such as heart rate, blood flow, and sweat secretion.

Importantly, the sympathetic system organizes, processes, and sends messages from the brain to the rest of the body in response to stress, known as the “fight or flight response”. In certain conditions, like PTSD, the sympathetic system can become overactive, resulting in abnormal and unwanted effects such as irritability and sleep disturbances.

Sympathetic overactivity plays a role in pain conditions that affect the neck, head, chest, and arms. These include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), phantom limb pain, post-herpetic neuralgia (post-shingles pain), and painful vessel spasms that are seen in angina and Raynaud’s disease.

How Do Stellate Ganglion Blocks Help?

An SGB quiets the nerve information transmitted by the sympathetic nervous system for the period that the local anesthetic is effective (up to 6 hours). The block is useful in resetting the sympathetic nervous system to its normal resting state. SGB is used for diagnostic purposes to inform your doctor whether increased sympathetic outflow is contributing to your condition. SGB can also provide long-lasting pain relief.

During the procedure, your doctor injects pain-numbing medicine around the stellate ganglion. This can turn off pain and relax blood vessels, offering much-needed relief to people with neuropathic and/or vascular pain. Your doctor may add steroid to the injection in order to prolong the relief.

How Long does the Procedure Take?

Stellate ganglion injections are quickly and safely performed under X-ray or ultrasound guidance, on an outpatient basis. The procedure typically takes less than 5 minutes to perform and is followed by a short recovery period before you are discharged home.

How Often Should this Procedure be Done?

Usually, injections are performed two to three weeks apart. A set of three injections is common, although the timing and number of injections can vary depending on the condition and the response. You may gain considerable relief after the first or second injection. In that instance, further injections may not be necessary.

What are the Expected Results?

Immediately following the procedure, you may temporarily experience a droopy eyelid, a stuffy nose, and/or warmth in the arm. We recommend that you avoid strenuous exercise the day of the procedure. You may return to normal activities upon discharge from the clinic.

Some people experience immediate pain relief after the injection, while others experience a slower onset of relief within a few days. How long the pain relief lasts is different for each patient.

Note: In the treatment of PTSD, patients often feel a reduction in anxiety the day of the procedure, with a significant reduction in irritability, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, and sleep disturbances for the weeks following the procedure.

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