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Stellate ganglion block

Why aren't we talking about stellate ganglion block?

The answer is simple: because there is no evidence that this treatment is effective for smell loss or parosmia. At AbScent, we only share information that is supported by scientific evidence. It’s the reason why thousands of people belong to our community - to get information they can trust.

So sometimes when there is a lot of noise on social media about a new treatment - like stellate ganglion block - it might appear that we’re missing something if we’re not talking about it too. But thanks to the excellent support of the AbScent Advisory Panel, made up of some of the world’s leading doctors and researchers, we get to hear about the treatments that do work, and know when to avoid fads that are not based on facts, and sometimes even dangerous.

Here’s what our panel advise on stellate ganglion block treatment for smell disorders:

What is stellate ganglion block (SGB)

A stellate ganglion block is an injection of local anaesthetic into the collection of nerves in the side of the neck. Most frequently used to relieve pain in the upper body, some practitioners are recommending it for conditions like PTSD. 

Does it work?

We asked leading ENT surgeon Professor Claire Hopkins about reports of SGB being used as a treatment for parosmia. She explained that there is no way that this can impact the sense of smell, and that it was extremely doubtful this had any benefit for smell disorders at all. The injection goes directly into the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system responsible for control of the bodily functions, such as breathing, the heartbeat, and digestive processes. 

Professor Hopkins has examined published papers but found the trial data to be unreliable. As a doctor, she could not recommend this treatment and warned against the risks involved, particularly if administered by a practitioner who is not a qualified medical doctor. 

SGB treatment for smell loss has to be paid for by the patient privately, it’s not covered by the NHS or medical insurance. The bill can be more than £ / $ 1,000. 

But it worked for them… or did it?

Many of the reports that we hear suggest that actually, it doesn’t work for smell disorders. Patients might report a temporary change - but as someone living with this you’ll know that changes in what, and how well you can smell, happen daily anyway.

For many, the experience of speaking with someone who appears to understand and has an answer is naturally a wonderful experience. The willingness to believe this will work is powerful, and people want to share their positive experience. This can create a bias in reporting, and give the impression that an intervention like this might work. 

AbScent’s founder, Chrissi Kelly says, “It’s so difficult to know what to trust, and when you’re desperate, you’ll try anything. We need to be careful consumers of the information out there. Just because something is widely shared doesn’t make it factually correct. When you read a rave review, ask yourself: who benefits from this? Sadly, it’s not the patient in many cases.”


Professor Hopkins talked about SGB and other treatments in conversation with Chrissi: watch again on our YouTube Channel

April 13, 2022