Stellate Ganglion Block

A stellate ganglion block, or cervicothoracic sympathetic block, is an advanced medical technique used to treat pain in the head, neck, chest, or arm.  The stellate ganglion, located just below the neck, is an important meeting place for fibers that are part of the sympathetic nervous system.  This intricate system is responsible for many automatic bodily functions, such as sweating, heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure.  Candidates for this procedure include people with nerve injuries, shingles, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy.  A stellate ganglion injection is sometimes performed to improve blood flow in patients with circulatory problems.  Breast cancer survivors and postmenopausal women that experience severe hot flashes, also report feeling more regulated after undergoing this medical technique.

The procedure takes place while the patient is lying on the back, with the neck facing forward and slightly extended.  The clinician will begin by pressing down on different areas of the neck, which can be uncomfortable to some.  This important step allows for proper needle placement between the trachea and the carotid sheath.  When the needle is inserted in the front lower neck, the physician confirms its placement by using a special live X-ray device, known as a fluoroscopy machine.  When the doctor is satisfied with the needle’s position, anesthetic agents are injected into the target areas.  The procedure can take between 5 and 10 minutes, with time afterwards for observation and patient rest.

Due to the effects of Valium, patients are required to have a friend or relative provide transportation, and should avoid eating heavy foods prior to the procedure.  Due to the possibility of residual sensations, dizziness, or throat discomfort following the procedure, patients should refrain from performing complex tasks, driving, or swallowing heavily.  The doctor will consult with you before, during, and after the procedure to ensure you are comfortable with the care rendered, and to discuss all relevant information.