Long Covid patients grappling with parosmia, a distorted sense of smell, may find relief through an outpatient procedure called stellate ganglion block, according to new research from Jefferson Health in Philadelphia (Source: NBC News).
Parosmia, characterized by scents turning foul or unpalatable, has been a lingering symptom for some individuals even after their COVID-19 infections have cleared.
The procedure involves injecting an anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a complex of nerves in the neck responsible for signals to the head, neck, arms, and upper chest. Traditionally used for chronic pain management, this 10-minute outpatient treatment is now showing promise in alleviating parosmia when pharmaceutical or topical therapies have proven ineffective.
In a study involving 37 patients at Jefferson Health, 22 reported an improvement in their smell distortion one week after the injection, and 18 of them noted significant improvement after one month.
Subsequently, 26 patients returned for a second injection on the other side of their neck, further enhancing their condition. Notably, the treatment was less effective in those who saw no change after the initial injection.
Dr. Adam Zoga, a professor of musculoskeletal radiology at Jefferson Health leading the research, highlighted the life-changing impact of this treatment for patients whose parosmia severely affected both their physical and mental well-being. For some, everyday activities like giving their child a bath or finding food pleasurable became challenging due to heightened aversions.
The stellate ganglion block procedure, guided by CT or ultrasound images, targets the nerve bundle at the base of the neck. While the injection carries a side effect of temporary droopy eyelid, dilated pupil, and brief vision loss, these symptoms quickly resolve.
Dr. Zoga emphasized the technical skill required for the procedure, given the proximity of the stellate ganglion to critical blood vessels supplying the brain. However, administered by a trained professional, the injection proves relatively harmless.
This innovative approach presents a promising avenue for addressing a challenging aspect of long Covid, providing hope for individuals experiencing persistent olfactory distortions. As research continues, the stellate ganglion block could emerge as a valuable tool in improving the quality of life for those grappling with long-term effects of the virus.