Have you recovered from the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19? Whether you had a mild or severe case, do you have ongoing health problems? You may have a syndrome now referred to as “long COVID”.Experts currently estimate that up to 40% of those who experienced a COVID-19 infection may now be suffering from “long COVID.”
Recent studies have shown successful treatment of long COVID symptoms following a stellate ganglion block (SBG).
What Is Long Covid?
When your body encounters a virus, the immune system mounts a response to fight it. Most individuals can clear the virus and recover. When your body detects an infection, the liver sends C-reactive proteins (CRPs). Their duty is to control the swelling.In cases without symptoms, the body may still respond without increasing your CRPs.
In symptomatic cases, the CRP and inflammatory cytokines increase dramatically. This response mirrors the level of disease severity. These levels usually return to their normal range within a few months after recovery. If organ damage occurs, the recovery time takes longer.
Experts report that about 40% of symptomatic COVID-19 patients have ongoing problems. This is also true for five percent of people who never had symptoms during their COVID-19 infection.
SARS-CoV-2 causes the body to increase inflammation-causing cytokines. They’re produced as part of the immune response to heal the body. In long COVID, this response doesn’t stop after the body recovers from the acute infection.
Symptoms of Long COVID
Individuals with long COVID may have symptoms severity from mild to debilitating. These patients may experience:
• Blood clots
• Brain fog
• Changes or lack of taste
• Feeling faint due to a drop in blood pressure when moving from sitting to standing
• Gastrointestinal problems
• Hair loss
• Heart beating faster or slower than normal
• Inability to sleep
• Increased resting heart rate
• Shortness of breath
• Trouble sleeping
What Is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
The stellate ganglion is a bundle of nerves on the front of the spine where the neck and chest join. This almond-shaped group of nerves is part of the sympathetic nervous system. It connects to the amygdala in the brain. This area controls the expression of emotions.
During a stellate ganglion block (SGB), an anesthetic is injected into this area. The goal is to decrease the stellate ganglion’s response and give time for the brain to reset. This disruption resets the “fight or flight” mode that the body is stuck in. Thus, it’s proven beneficial in treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, and long COVID.
Stellate Ganglion Block for Long Covid
While it is unknown how long COVID symptoms may linger, recent studies have shown that stellate ganglion blocks may decrease the effects of long COVID like loss of taste/smell, fatigue, brain fog, and joint pain.
The stellate ganglion block has been performed for decades, originally targeting nerve pain. By using a local anesthetic in the anterior region of the neck, targeting cervical sympathetic chain activity, a stellate ganglion block allows for the body to reboot the autonomic nervous system by reduce fight or flight responses for roughly 24 hours. While the injection is quick and minimally invasive, case studies have shown that patients may experience relief almost immediately and that results can last several months.
The stellate ganglion block injection has two different properties, the anesthetic, which offers immediate symptom relief, and a medication that works to reduce or eliminate a chemical made by the body called norepinephrine. The stellate block treatment is done by using a small x-ray device, which will guide the needle to the location where the ganglion nerves are present. The injection will then release the medication through a fine needle. While there are not many side effects associated with the stellate ganglion block, some patients will experience a hoarse voice, reddening of the eyes, and a warm sensation in the facial region. These symptoms will generally occur within minutes of the injection, but they will disappear just hours after the injection takes place. Also, these side effects do not cause too much discomfort.