Using a minimally invasive procedure guided by imaging, researchers have made a breakthrough in restoring the sense of smell for long-COVID patients. Parosmia, a condition where the sense of smell becomes distorted, has been found to affect up to 60% of COVID-19 patients. While most patients regain their sense of smell over time, some individuals continue to experience these symptoms for months or even years after infection, greatly impacting their quality of life and appetite for food.
To address this issue, a team of researchers explored the potential benefits of a CT-guided stellate ganglion block. This procedure involves injecting anesthetic directly into the stellate ganglion, which are nerves located on each side of the neck responsible for transmitting signals to the head, neck, arms, and upper chest. The stellate ganglion block, which takes less than 10 minutes and requires no sedation or intravenous analgesia, has been successfully used for various conditions such as cluster headaches and phantom limb pain.
The lead author of the study, Dr. Adam C. Zoga, expressed initial skepticism about the procedure’s efficacy for parosmia. However, the results were astonishing. The study included 54 patients with post-COVID parosmia that had not responded to other therapies. After undergoing the stellate ganglion block, a majority of patients experienced significant improvement in their symptoms. Some even reported near-complete resolution of phantosmia, a condition where individuals detect smells that aren’t present in their environment.
Follow-up with the patients revealed that 59% reported improved symptoms at one week post-injection, with 82% of them showing progressive improvement one month later. The treatment showed a mean 49% improvement in symptoms at three months. Furthermore, a second injection on the opposite side of the neck provided additional improvement for 86% of patients who had responded to the first injection.
These findings offer hope for long-COVID patients struggling with parosmia. By targeting the stellate ganglion, researchers have found a potential solution for restoring the sense of smell and enhancing the quality of life for these individuals.
What is parosmia?
Parosmia is a condition where the sense of smell becomes distorted, causing individuals to perceive smells differently than they should.
How common is parosmia in COVID-19 patients?
Recent research suggests that up to 60% of COVID-19 patients experience parosmia as a symptom.
What is the stellate ganglion?
The stellate ganglion refers to a group of nerves on each side of the neck that transmit signals to various parts of the head, neck, arms, and upper chest.
How does the stellate ganglion block procedure work?
During the procedure, anesthetic is injected directly into the stellate ganglion. This helps stimulate the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary processes in the body. The block aims to reduce inflammation and restore normal nerve function.
Are there any side effects or complications associated with the procedure?
According to the study, no complications or adverse events were reported in relation to the stellate ganglion block procedure. However, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before undergoing any medical treatment.