What is a Stellate Ganglion Injection?

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The stellate ganglion is located on the front side of the cervical vertebral bodies just to the side of the voice box. This collection of nerves can at times control how pain is experienced in the shoulder and arm. A stellate ganglion injection is used to determine if there is abnormal and excessive function in the sympathetic nerve chain and if it is the source of the patient’s pain.This is primarily a diagnostic block, but at times it may provide pain relief in excess of the duration of the anesthetic.

This injection is done under x-ray or ultrasound guidance with the patient lying on their back. After cleaning the skin, a local skin anesthetic is given near the base of the neck on the affected side. A small needle is inserted by the doctor near the transverse process of the cervical spine and medication is then slowly injected.

The patient may note increased warmth of the painful arm after the injection. The patient can expect redness of the eye, drooping of the eyelid and constriction of the pupil for several hours after the injection. The voice may be hoarse and swallowing may feel unusual for a few hours. These are expected reactions. Pain relief may be noted quickly. Duration of relief is variable. The patient must assess their pain relief for several hours after the injection and report this to the doctor at the follow up visit.

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