Stellate Ganglion Nerve Block

Stellate Ganglion Injection for Headache

A stellate ganglion nerve block is a minimally invasive procedure that can help patients manage many pain conditions, including severe headache. At the Diamond Headache Clinic, this procedure may be offered to patients whose headache pain is not helped sufficiently by medications, non-interventional alternative therapies or lifestyle modifications. Ask your headache physician if a stellate ganglion nerve block is right for you as part of your overall treatment plan.

What is the Stellate Ganglion?

The stellate ganglion is a network of nerves located in the neck on either side of the voice box. As part of the sympathetic nervous system, the stellate ganglion governs sensory processing and blood flow for the head, neck, chest and arms.

What Is a Stellate Ganglion Nerve Block for Migraine and Headache?

Local anesthetic is injected into the sympathetic nerve tissue of the neck to block the sympathetic nerves to the head, helping to relieve head pain. Blocking the stellate ganglion creates a calm feeling and increases blood flow. For headaches caused by the dilation of blood vessels, such as migraine and cluster headache, the stellate ganglion nerve block helps to prevent attacks by stabilizing the activity of the blood vessels.

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The Procedure

A stellate ganglion nerve block takes about 30 minutes. A topical anesthetic is usually offered but, if requested, an intravenous medication can be administered to help the patient relax. While you’re lying on your back, your doctor inserts a thin needle into your neck and injects the local anesthetic. Then, with ultrasound or X-ray guidance to ensure correct positioning, the doctor inserts a second needle and carefully injects the anesthetic medication. You will be monitored for a while and then allowed to go home. You should not drive or do rigorous activities for 24 hours. You should be able to return to work the following day.

The risks of serious side effects and complications are very low. The most common side effects are temporary injection-site bruising, a warm feeling in the arm and the feeling that something is in your throat. If you have certain conditions, this procedure is contraindicated. Make sure your doctor is aware of all your health conditions and any medications you are taking.

Headache Relief

As with most nerve block procedures, the amount of pain mitigation varies by patient. Relief is immediate for some patients, but this may be the effect of the anesthesia. In some cases, a decrease in pain won’t be felt for several days. Some patients experience pain relief that lasts for days or weeks. Often, more than one injection is needed for full symptom relief — a complete series can range from two to more than 10 injections.

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