Stellate ganglion block is an injection procedure used to block or decrease pain located in the head, neck, chest, or arm.

It also helps to increase circulation. The stellate ganglion is a group of nerves located in the upper neck and is part of the sympathetic nervous system. After an injury or illness, the sympathetic nervous system may not function properly, causing pain. Some of the more common include: complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), causalgia (nerve injury), and herpes zoster (shingles) of the head and face.

If this nerve block relieves your pain, the doctor will perform a series of blocks at another time in an attempt to break the pain cycle and provide long lasting pain relief. The number of blocks you will need depends on how long the pain relief lasts between injections. Usually you will get longer pain relief after each injection.

Procedure Overview


The stellate ganglion block is an outpatient procedure done in our facility’s ambulatory surgery center under strict sterile conditions. For your safety and comfort, you will be connected to monitoring equipment (EKG monitor, blood pressure cuff, and a blood-oxygen monitoring device). The procedure is performed with you lying on your back. A rolled-up sheet or other support is placed between your shoulder blades. After cleansing your neck with an antiseptic solution, the doctor will inject numbing medicine into the skin and tissue.

The doctor will also apply some pressure on your neck to determine exactly where to place the needle. It is very important that you do not talk, swallow, or cough. If you have to swallow or cough, raise your hand to let someone know. After the numbing medicine takes effect the doctor will insert another needle with the assistance of a special X-ray machine called a fluoroscope to a location in front of your cervical vertebrae. When satisfied with the needle position, the doctor will inject a small mixture of numbing medicine (anesthetic) and anti-inflammatory medicine (cortisone/steroid). Although it takes about 10 to 20 minutes for the medication to take effect, you will remain at the clinic until the doctor feels you are ready to leave.

Before the Procedure

Since you will be receiving medication, it is recommended that you do not eat within four or five hours before the procedure. If you are a diabetic, be sure to discuss your eating and medication schedule with the doctor. You may need to stop taking certain medications several days before the procedure. Please remind the doctor of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including herbal and vitamin supplements. The doctor will tell you if and when you need to discontinue the medications.

After the Procedure

You need to be aware of several potential side effects. These side effects, which usually disappear four to eight hours after the block may include: A droopy eyelid on the side of the block; Redness and blurred vision in the eye on the side of the block; A feeling like a lump in your throat; Difficulty swallowing; Hoarseness of your voice; Warmth on the side of the block. Do not eat solid food until you are comfortable swallowing. Do not drive for the remainder of the day. Please have an adult drive you home or accompany you in a taxi or other public transportation.

Depending on how you feel, you may resume normal activities and return to work the following day. If the doctor prescribes physical therapy, it is very important that you continue with the physical therapy program.

Procedure Risks

The risks, although rare, include: Collapsed lung; Allergic reaction to the medication; Nerve damage; Bruising at the injection site; Infection at the injection site; Injection of medication into a blood vessel. If you experience new shortness of breath 24 - 48 hours after the injection or any signs of infection in the area of the injection you should call the doctor right away.

Watch this short video below to learn more about the procedure.