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Stellate Ganglion Block

The Stellate Ganglion is a nerve group found in the front of your neck between C7 (seventh cervical vertebra) and T1 (first thoracic vertebra). The stellate ganglion transmits sympathetic nerve signals to supply (or innervate) your face and upper extremities (i.e. arms). Your sympathetic nerves control heart rate, sweating, pupil dilation, and many other important body functions.

There are many different types of disorders that can cause or contribute to upper extremity pain. Examples include:

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
  • Raynaud’s Syndrome is a disease that interrupts blood circulation; and may be associated with upper extremity (i.e. arms, hands) blood vessel spasms, painful throbbing, swelling, tingling sensations.

Benefits

Similar to other types of injections, a stellate ganglion block helps to provide (1) pain relief and (2) diagnostic feedback to confirm or deny the pain generator. For example, a stellate ganglion block can help confirm the diagnosis of CRPS/RSD.

If the stellate ganglion block relieves pain, a neurolytic procedure to disable the nerve from transmitting pain or spinal cord stimulation may be recommended. Both treatment options may provide long lasting and sustained pain relief.

Procedure

You are positioned on a padded table on your back with your head slightly tilted to expose your neck area. Although the procedure only takes a few minutes, you have the option of to have "twilight" sedation to further relax you.

A stellate ganglion block involves injecting a local anesthetic through a small needle into the neck area (sympathetic nerve tissue). The entire injection procedure is performed using real-time x-ray (fluoroscopy).

Besides pain relief, you may notice upper extremity warming. Other post-procedure symptoms include a droopy, red eye and nasal congestion on the procedure side of your body. Some patients experience voice hoarseness and develop headache. These symptoms do not indicate the block is unsuccessful.

Rather, if the stellate ganglion block does not produce the desired results, a Thoracic Sympathetic Ganglion Block (T1-T2) may be performed.

To Learn More

If you are interested in an evaluation and treatment of your upper extremity or pain problem, please contact our pain management experts at The Spine and Pain Institute of New York in Manhattan, New York and Staten Island, New York. We would be happy to make an appointment for a consultation and provide additional information about other treatment options.

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