What is a stellate ganglion block?
The term ‘stellate ganglion’ refers to a collection of nerves lying to the side of
your spine in your neck. These nerves supply certain pain messages and
control the flow of blood to your arm, chest, head and neck. Local anaesthetic
is injected into the area around the stellate ganglion and bathes the nerves.
Why do I need a stellate ganglion block?
A stellate ganglion block has been shown to provide some pain relief for
people with nerve pain affecting the head, chest, neck and arm.
The injection will not cure your pain, but may relieve some or all of your pain,
giving you a rest from your pain and decreasing your symptoms, allowing you
to increase your mobility.
Diagram taken from Raj PP 1992. Practical Management of Pain, St. Louis,
What happens on the day of treatment?
The procedure is carried out as a day case and hospital admission is usually
for a morning or afternoon only.
On arrival, a nurse will ask you a few brief questions. You will be asked to put
on a theatre gown and your blood pressure and pulse will be recorded.
The procedure itself is carried out in an operating theatre. This allows for the
injection to take place in a clean environment with appropriate care and
On entering a small needle will be inserted into the back of your
hand to provide intervenous access. This allows the doctor to give you sedation or emergency drugs if
The procedure is usually carried out with you either sitting or lying on your
back. The doctor will clean the skin with an antiseptic fluid, which can feel
very cold on the skin.
Local anaesthetic may then be given into the skin. This may sting initially, but
the area will soon become numb.
A needle is then inserted to lie just above the stellate ganglion. You may feel
a pushing sensation and some discomfort at this stage. If you do, you should
let the doctor know and you may be given some sedation to relax you and
make you feel sleepy.
Once the needle is in the correct position, the local anaesthetic is injected.
You should let the doctor know if you feel any pain. The procedure usually
takes around 15 minutes.
Once the injection is completed, you will be taken to the recovery area within
the theatre suite where your blood pressure will be monitored for a short
period of time. You will remain on the bed/trolley for around 1 hour and the
ability to move your arm will be monitored.
The local anaesthetic may work immediately for a short period of time to
relieve some of your symptoms and may last from several days to a few
weeks of months.
It is important that you move normally and carry out your day to day activities
as normal to see if the injection has been helpful.
You may have a bath or shower on the same day and will be able to return to
all of your usual activities the following day.
An exception to this is driving. If you have had sedation, you should not drive
for 24 hours and will need a friend or relative to go home with you.
Some people experience tenderness or bruising where the injection was
performed. This usually settles over the next week or so.
Very rarely, the local anaesthetic may affect nerves that control your blood
pressure causing it to decrease and possibly make you feel faint. If this happens, your
blood pressure will be monitored more closely, but these effects are
temporary and will resolve.
By blocking the stellate ganglion nerves, you may also experience flushing
over one side of the face, a drooping eyelid, dry cheek and a bloodshot eye.
These effects are temporary and indicate that the block is working well.
The recurrent laryngeal nerve, a small nerve supplying the vocal cords, may
also be numbed by the local anaesthetic. If this occurs, you may temporarily
experience a hoarse voice.
Some nerves carry instructions to the muscles in your arms. If these nerves
are numbed by the local anaesthetic, your arm may feel numb, heavy and
clumsy for a short time. This again is temporary and your arm will fully
With any type of injection, there is a risk of infection. Over the next few days,
you should observe if the area becomes painful, swollen, red, hot to touch or
If you experience any severe swelling of the neck, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or pain when breathing, you should contact your local hospital immediately.
There are some rare complications which can cause serious, but treatable problems, if you wish to discuss these, please ask before agreeing to consent to the procedure.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.