Often chronic pain is maintained by the sympathetic nervous system. By blocking bundles of sympathetic nerves, pain relief can be achieved. Such blocks can be very useful for treatment of complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS (formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy). Other conditions treated by these blocks include phantom limb pain, cancer pain, postherpetic neuralgia, facial pain and certain types of headaches.
A stellate ganglion block is performed for painful conditions of the hands and arms. Sedation may be offered for this procedure. While lying comfortably on your back, an X-ray or ultrasound machine is used to visualize the lower vertebrae in your neck. The skin on your neck is then sterilized and numbed with local anesthetic. After that, a small needle is safely guided to the area where your sympathetic nerves lie. Once the correct position is confirmed, local anesthetic is injected through the needle. You may experience warmth in your arm and hand, as well as temporary drooping of your eyelid. There are both normal reactions.
After a brief recovery period, during which time your vital signs are monitored, you are free to go about your normal activities. There are no restrictions on activities following this procedure, but if you did receive sedation, a driver will be required. You will be advised to keep track of how much pain relief you experience and how long this relief lasts.