What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves in your neck on either side of your voice box. These nerves are not the usual nerves that allow us to feel or move but rather they have specialized functions and work on the blood vessels, sweat glands and hair follicles.

A stellate ganglion block is an injection of local anesthetic (numbing medication) near the stellate ganglion that “turns off” these specialized nerves. It is used to help with pain in the head, arm and upper chest

How is it done?

You will lie down on your back on the procedure table. The front of your neck will be cleaned and a sterile towel placed over the area.

A specialized x-ray machine called a fluoroscope will be used to locate the area of the ganglion.

A localized anesthetic is administered into the skin of the neck for numbing. This will cause a second or two of discomfort.

The doctor will then insert a second needle into the area of the ganglion, again, using the fluoroscope for guidance. A small amount of dye will be injected through the needle to make sure that it spreads to the correct area.

Finally, the medication will then be injected through the needle and the needle will be removed. The procedure will only take a few minutes.

What is a Stellate Ganglion Block used for?

Stellate Ganglion Blocks are most often used to help with painful injuries to the nervous system such as:

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD),
  • Shingles (Herpes),
  • Phantom Limb Pain.
  • Circulation (blood flow) problems.


Recent research has shown that stellate ganglion blocks may help with PTSD. Dr. Nairn is the first doctor in New Mexico to incorporate this approach

Is there anything else I should know?

You need to bring a driver with you to the procedure and you should not drive the remainder of the day. You should take it easy the after the procedure but you may resume normal activities the next day. Please tell us if you are on any blood thinner medications.

What are the advantages?

Stellate ganglion blocks may relieve symptoms almost immediately. The procedure is relatively simple and requires little recovery time.

What are the risks?

A stellate ganglion block is a low risk procedure. There is a chance of bruising or soreness at the injection site following the procedure. Common side effects associated with numbing of the sympathetic nerves that indicate that the injection is on target are:

  • drooping eyelid,
  • red eye,
  • tearing,
  • nasal stuffiness,
  • warmth in the arm and hand all on the side of the injection.
Less common side effects include:

  • a lump in your throat, hoarseness,
  • and/or difficulty swallowing after the procedure.
All of these effects go away within a few hours after the numbing medication wears off.

Serious side effects are extremely rare but can include:

  • infection,
  • bleeding,
  • nerve damage,
  • pneumothorax, and
  • seizures

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