Just over two years ago, we never could have imagined a virus shaping the course of our day-to-day the way COVID has. We certainly know more about COVID now than we did then and, with that, comes new treatment options, especially for some of the long-lasting symptoms some patients are having. Maverick Medical Education tries to find a number of applications for the blocks and methods we already teach and the application of the Stellate Ganglion Block to treat some of these symptoms is just one of them.
Long Lasting Symptoms
While there are certainly many patients who have somewhat manageable cases of COVID-19, there are a number of those in our population who have experienced longer lasting symptoms. Additionally, there are some patients who have been wondering if their issues and concerns are due to COVID recovery or something else. According to one study, 30% of symptomatic individuals develop what is called “Long COVID” and symptoms include “fatigue, orthostatic intolerance, elevated resting heart rate, shortness of breath, brain fog, sleep disturbance, fevers, gastrointestinal symptoms, anosmia, dysgeusia, anxiety, and depression.” Many, but not all of these symptoms, have associations with the sympathetic nervous system.
How the Block Helps
The stellate ganglion is a naturally occurring fusion, in 80% of the population, of the inferior cervical and first thoracic ganglia. By injecting an anesthetic, or performing a block, at this position, there can be disruption of the cervical sympathetic chain. A successful block will show physiological signs like facial flushing and meiosis, also known as Horner’s Syndrome. The block improves blood flow, deactivates sympathetic tone, shows advances in treatment of PTSD, and reduction of pain overall.
How the Block is Performed
Patients should be placed on their back in a supine position where their neck is accessible for the procedure. Intravenous medicine can be given to relax the patient and make the procedure more comfortable. The neck will be cleaned to prevent infection and a local anesthetic may be given. Using ultrasound guidance, the injection will be placed near the voice box, into the space surrounding the stellate ganglion. Patients should be monitored for side effects like difficulty swallowing, warmth or tingling in arms or hands, and drooping eyelids. Usually, side effects are minimal, and patients can go home shortly after the procedure. Each patient is different in how long pain reduction is present.
If you are looking for a way to apply this block and the others taught in our Chronic Pain Series, contact us today. We have courses scheduled for this series and for other courses to teach medical professionals from around the country how to better treat those in their community. Our course schedule is available for you to sign up today.