Introduction

A stellate ganglion block is an injection used to diagnose or treat certain nerve conditions.  The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves located at the front of the neck.  A stellate ganglion block is used to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain from the head, neck, face, or arms.  A stellate ganglion block provides periods of pain relief that vary from person to person.  The procedure can be repeated multiple times, if needed.

Anatomy

The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves located at the base of the front of the neck, on both sides of the voice box.  The stellate ganglion regulates functions that you cannot control (involuntary sympathetic nervous functions) such as sweating, blood flow, and pain in the head, neck, upper chest, and upper arms.

Causes

A stellate ganglion block uses injected medication to block nerve signals about pain and can help increase circulation.  A stellate ganglion block can be used as a diagnostic and or treatment procedure.  The procedure can be helpful for people with pain from certain nerve conditions, such as complex regional pain syndrome, phantom limb pain, and shingles (herpes zoster) that affect the arm, head, or face.

Symptoms

A stellate ganglion block is used to relieve chronic pain.  The type of pain that you experience depends on the condition that you have.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose the cause of your pain by reviewing your medical history and conducting a physical examination.  Your doctor may order imaging tests or nerve studies to help with the diagnostic process.  A stellate ganglion block may be used to help diagnose the cause of pain.

Treatment

A stellate ganglion block is an outpatient procedure.  You will wear a gown and be positioned on an exam table lying on your back.  A support will be placed behind your shoulders and neck to help raise your chin and tilt your head back.

You will receive relaxation medicine prior to the procedure.  The front of your neck will be sterilized and numbed with a local anesthetic.  Your doctor will use a live X-ray (fluoroscope) to guide the injection needle to the stellate ganglion nerves.  Contrast dye will be injected to confirm the placement of the needle.  Once confirmed, the pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medication is delivered.

If the stellate ganglion block provided pain relief, additional treatments can be provided over time.  Individual responses can vary from short-term to long periods of pain relief.  Generally speaking, the pain-free phase lasts longer with each additional injection.