What is a cervical sympathetic nerve block?

Stellate ganglion blocks, or cervical sympathetic nerve blocks, involve injecting a local anesthetic into one of the cervical nerve roots to alleviate pain. A needle will be inserted in the front of your neck towards your spine. A small amount of local anesthesia, similar to the kind your dentist injects into your gum prior to filling a cavity, is injected into the nerve until the desired numbing effect occurs. This may be done with the help of an ultrasound machine, a computed tomography (CT) scan, or under x-ray with fluoroscopy. All of these techniques help to determine exactly where the needle should be inserted.

 

Am I a candidate for cervical sympathetic nerve block?

You are a candidate for cervical sympathetic nerve block if you have been diagnosed with chest pain that doesn’t go away despite other treatments, pain of the head or neck, phantom limb pain, shingles, or a pain syndrome such as reflex sympathetic dystrophy or causalgia. Additionally, if you suffer from an arterial vascular insufficiency disorder like scleroderma, Raynaud syndrome, an obliterative vascular disease, trauma, or emboli, your doctor may suggest a stellate ganglion block to help alleviate pain. If you have pain from venous insufficiency, this will not help. If you also suffer from glaucoma, have a low resting heart rate that causes you to feel lightheaded or have other symptoms, recently suffered from a heart attack, or your blood is having trouble clotting appropriately, you are not a candidate for a stellate ganglion block.

 

How long will the cervical sympathetic nerve block take?

The length of the procedure depends on how long it takes to find the appropriate spot for injection. You will be positioned on your back with your neck slightly extended and asked to keep your mouth slightly open. The provider will use the appropriate technology to locate the proper injection spot and administer the medication slowly until pain relief and numbness is achieved. After removing the needle, your provider will hold pressure on the site for five to ten minutes. You will have to remain under observation for an hour or more to ensure you do not experience any side effects.

 

How long will it take to recover from cervical sympathetic nerve block?

You should be ready to leave roughly an hour after the procedure. There is no recovery involved with stellate ganglion blocks unless a side effect occurs. Risks associated with the procedure are caused by the anesthetic being injected into the wrong space, like the artery, or if the needle punctures the lung. Using technology such as ultrasound helps to minimize these risks. Your doctor will help you decide if the benefits of the stellate ganglion block outweigh the risks associated with the procedure.

 

Reference:

Amhaz, H. (2014). Image-Guided Stellate Ganglion Block. Medscape. Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1819950-overview