Ganglion Blocks

What Are Ganglion Blocks?

The stellate ganglion is part of the sympathetic nervous system that is located in your neck, on either side of your voice box. A stellate ganglion block is an injection of medication into these nerves that can help relieve pain in the head, neck, upper arm and upper chest. It also can help increase circulation and blood supply to the arm.

A stellate ganglion block is used to diagnose or treat circulation problems or nerve injuries, including:

  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
  • Causalgia
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome type I or II
  • Herpes zoster infection (or “shingles”) affecting the head, neck, arm or upper chest
  • Phantom limb pain

First, you may be given intravenous medication to relax you. Then, you’ll lie on your back on an x-ray table and your neck will be cleansed. Using fluoroscopy or ultrasound guidance, the provider will insert a needle into the stellate ganglion and carefully inject an anesthetic medication. Usually, the procedure takes less than 30 minutes, and you can go home the same day after being monitored in the recovery room.

The risk of complications from a stellate ganglion block is very low. However, there could be bruising or soreness at the injection site. Serious complications, including infection, bleeding and nerve damage, are uncommon.

Side effects of the procedure may include:

  • Drooping eyelids
  • Red or “bloodshot” eyes
  • Tearing
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Hoarse voice
  • Feeling of a “lump” in your throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Warmth or tingling in your arm or hand

These effects will subside within a few hours.