Head, neck, chest or arm pain caused by nerve injury, shingles or some other conditions could benefit from a stellate ganglion block.
In addition to being used for the pain caused by nerve injury or shingles this procedure can be useful for pain caused by reflex sympathetic dystrophy. A stellate ganglion block could be diagnostic or therapeutic in nature. If your pain level significantly decreases following your stellate ganglion block, then your healthcare provider knows the procedure was therapeutically beneficial and you will likely need to have the procedure repeated to obtain long-lasting pain relief benefits.
How is a Stellate Ganglion Block Performed?
If you are scheduled for a stellate ganglion block, you will be receiving an injection in the front of the neck, either to the right or left. The stellate ganglion, a small nerve bundle which carries pain signals from the upper extremities, is injected with a local anesthetic to determine whether your specific pain is being transmitted by the sympathetic nervous system.
For diagnostic purposes, a local anesthetic, such as Bupivacaine or Lidocaine are injected into the stellate ganglion. If the diagnostic injection relieves your pain, other medications may be injected to achieve long-lasting pain relief. When the anesthetic is injected, you may feel your arm becoming warm, and may experience a significant lessening of pain.
How Long Will My Stellate Ganglion Block Last and Are There Side Effects?
Most patients receive at least temporary relief, although for some, the pain relief can be permanent. A significant number of those who receive a stellate ganglion block will receive a subsequent block to keep the pain at bay. While this procedure is generally considered safe, with few risks, some side effects of a stellate ganglion block include:
- Increased pain from the injection
- Nerve damage
- No relief from the normal levels of pain
- Inadvertent puncture of the spinal fluid sack
- Inadvertent injection into the blood vessels in the neck
If you are allergic to any of the medications, currently have an active infection or are on blood thinning medications, you should not have this procedure done.
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