02 May Stellate Ganglion Block as a Treatment for Long-Haul COVID
We have all heard enough about COVID to know that it is a disease you don’t want to get. When symptoms are mild or you recover quickly, COVID can be little more than inconvenient. But for some people, COVID becomes a long-haul disease, and it continues to manifest symptoms for months on end.
If you are a long-haul COVID patient, we would like to offer you a possible treatment in what is known as a stellate ganglion block. As experts in pain medicine, we utilize all sorts of nerve blocks to help our patients find relief. What does this have to do with long-haul COVID symptoms?
While your symptoms may not be presenting as chronic pain, a stellate gangling block could still be effective in treating symptoms like:
- parosmia (altered sense of taste/smell)
- brain fog
- orthostatic intolerance.
It is believed that one of the benefits of stellate ganglion block as a treatment for COVID may be linked to its ability to improve cerebral blood flow. Whether or not this is true, we have heard a lot of positive reports from doctors and patients about the effectiveness of the block, particularly among patients suffering from a loss of taste and smell.
Stellate ganglion block is an outpatient treatment that can be done right here in our office. The treatment is designed to block the signals traveling from the stellate ganglion to the brain. The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves that run along both sides of the spine. They are linked to many of those involuntary actions your body takes without you even knowing it.
For example, the stellate ganglion do their part to regulate heart rate and perspiration. They are also linked to pain. For the purposes of treating long-haul COVID symptoms however, we are more concerned about how the nerves interact with the brain in ways not related to pain.
How the Procedure Is Performed
To start the procedure, the patient lies on their back and medication is given to promote relaxation. Next, a local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin, after which a needle is inserted and guided to the stellate ganglion using an imaging technique known as fluoroscopy.
When the doctor is satisfied that the proper location has been found, the stellate ganglion is bathed in medicine that reduces inflammation and temporarily numbs the nerves. Following the injection, the needle is removed, and the injection site bandaged. The entire process only takes less than thirty minutes to complete.
Afterward, the patient is monitored for a bit before being sent home. There are some minor side effects some patients may experience:
- Soreness at the injection sight
- Temporary hoarseness
- Nasal congestion
- Flushed face
- Warmness or tingling in the arm.
None of the side effects are serious. However, if they continue to persist, patients are urged to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Also note that multiple treatments may be necessary to experience maximum benefits from the stellate ganglion block.
Studies Are Very Encouraging
We are still learning exactly why the stellate ganglion block seems to help long-haul COVID patients. If you would like to know more about the scientific research, here is a link to a study published in the Journal of Neuroimmunology in January, 2022.
If you are suffering any of the long-haul symptoms of COVID, we invite you to make an appointment to see one of our specialists here at Lone Star Pain Medicine. We would be more than happy to discuss stellate ganglion block as a possible treatment.