Have you recovered from the SARS-CoV-2 virus responsible for COVID-19? Whether your experience was mild or severe, you may have encountered lingering health issues. These issues are commonly known as “long COVID”.
Understanding Long COVID
When your body encounters a virus, your immune system springs into action to combat it. Most individuals can successfully clear the SARS-CoV-2 virus and recover.
In symptomatic cases of COVID, the SARS-CoV-2 triggers an increased production of C-reactive proteins (CRPs) and inflammation-causing cytokines as part of the immune response. This response mirrors the severity of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for each individual.
These elevated levels typically return to their normal range within a few months after recovery, although it may take longer depending on how COVID reacted with the body.
Approximately 30 percent of COVID-19 patients will continue to experience symptoms from the virus.
In long COVID, the increased production of cytokines response persists even after recovery from the acute infection.
Recognizing Long COVID Symptoms
Individuals dealing with long COVID may experience a range of symptoms, varying from mild to debilitating:
• Anxiety • Blood clots • Brain fog • Changes in or loss of taste • Depression • Fatigue • Dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension) • Fevers • Gastrointestinal issues • Hair loss • Irregular heartbeats • Insomnia • Elevated resting heart rate • Rashes • Shortness of breath • Sleep disturbances
The Role of Stellate Ganglion Blocks
The sympathetic nervous system, a component of the autonomic nervous system, regulates involuntary bodily functions like sweating and breathing. It also triggers the “fight or flight” response when the brain detects danger.
In response, your heart rate increases, breathing becomes more rapid, and blood vessels dilate to enhance oxygen delivery. Focus and tension (anxiety) intensify to aid your response.
Unfortunately, the body sometimes becomes “stuck” in this state, which is observed in individuals dealing with PTSD and persistent depression and anxiety. Medical professionals are now encountering this condition in long COVID patients.
The stellate ganglion, a cluster of nerves located at the front of the spine where the neck and chest meet, is part of the sympathetic nervous system. During a stellate ganglion block treatment for long COVID (SGB), an anesthetic is injected into this area. The aim is to reduce the stellate ganglion’s response, allowing the brain to reset.
Benefits of Stellate Ganglion Block for Long COVID
The Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) for long COVID interrupts the stellate ganglion’s response loop to the brain. The SGB is believed to help resolve autonomic nervous system dysfunctions, including fatigue, headaches, taste, and smell. This outpatient treatment disrupts the ongoing feedback loops that lead to inflammation and damage. The body stops “believing” it is still fighting the virus, potentially allowing some organ and system functions and responses to “calm down.”
About the Procedure
The Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) procedure is a medical treatment that involves the targeted injection of a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a cluster of nerves located in the neck, specifically in the cervical sympathetic chain. Here’s an overview of how the SGB procedure is typically performed:
Before the procedure vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen levels, are monitored to ensure safety throughout the procedure. Next, you will be positioned to allow optimal access to the stellate ganglion. A local anesthetic is applied to numb the skin and underlying tissues. A thin, sterile needle is carefully inserted through the numbed skin and guided toward the stellate ganglion using medical imaging for precision. Once aligned, the block will work by interrupting nerve signals in the ganglion, with their transmission to and from the brain.
After the injection, patients are typically observed for a short period in a recovery area to monitor for any immediate side effects or complications.
Additional Information on Stellate Ganglion Injections for Long COVID
To learn more about the use of stellate ganglion blocks (SGBs) for long COVID, visit our links page. These sources offer a variety of perspectives and insights into this treatment approach. Please remember that these links are not a substitute for medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider before considering SGBs or any other treatment for long COVID.