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Anaesthesist. 1992 Mar;41(3):146-51.

[Complications and side effects of stellate ganglion blockade. Results of a questionnaire survey].

[Article in German]

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Klinik für Anästhesiologie und Operative Intensivmedizin im Klinikum Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel.


Stellate ganglion blockade (SGB) is an established method in the therapy of chronic pain syndromes. Complications are rare but can be life-threatening (inadvertant subarachnoid or intra-arterial injection). Since no data are currently available as to the incidence of complications, we sent questionnaires to 76 departments of anaesthesiology in West Germany to evaluate this issue. RESULTS. Thirty-nine questionnaires (51%) were returned, representing approximately 45,000 SGBs; 82% of the departments prefer bupivacaine for SGB. The incidence of severe complications was 1.7 in 1000 blockades. Most of these were CNS complications (i.e., convulsions). A high subarachnoid block was reported in 6 cases, high epidural blockade in 3, pneumothorax in 9, and allergic reactions in 2. All departments conduct aspiration tests before injection; 94% take precautionary measures in case of respiratory failure (oxygen, ventilating devices); 73% do not perform SGB without an assistant and an anticonvulsant drug at hand; 72% place an intravenous line before SGB; 28% use ECG monitoring routinely; and 53% administer a test dose of 0.5-2 ml local anaesthetic. DISCUSSION. Severe complications following SGB are rare. Potentially life-threatening complications usually arise from inadvertant subarachnoid or intra-arterial injection. Aspiration tests and test doses obviously do not guarantee proper administration. Placement of an intravenous line, ECG monitoring, and the presence of an assistant are strongly recommended. Anticonvulsant drugs as well as drugs and equipment for intubation and resuscitation should be immediately available. The administration of very low doses of opioids to the stellate ganglion has been shown to have similar therapeutic results to local anaesthetic blocks, whereas the incidence of side effects and complications is lower. Therefore, the administration of opioids to sympathetic ganglia could provide an alternative therapeutic regimen for the future.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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