Neck Injection May Restore Smell for COVID Patients

A few years ago, COVID-19 ravaged the globe, and some people have been dealing with several lasting symptoms, including loss of smell.

Parosmia, or an altered sense of smell, is a common feature of several chronic COVID-19 infections. Many complained of altered or impaired smell, which can seriously interfere with day-to-day activities.

Changes in taste and smell were considered a significant sign of a coronavirus infection early in the pandemic. According to research conducted in the United Kingdom, which was presented on November 20 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, over 43% of those who said they had lost their sense of smell in March 2020 also showed parosmia six months later.

However, medical professionals have had difficulty understanding the cause of parosmia following a viral infection, let alone finding a cure.

According to recent research from Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, patients who experienced parosmia for at least six months following their COVID-19 illness and who did not improve with medication or topical treatments may find that a procedure known as stellate ganglion block is somewhat effective at lessening the condition.

The stellate ganglion, a tangle of nerves in the neck that sends impulses to the head, neck, arms, and upper chest, is where the anesthesia is injected during therapy. It has been used to treat chronic pain for decades.

Twenty-two of the 37 individuals at Jefferson Health who underwent the surgery and saw doctors a week later said that their scent distortion had improved.

Furthermore, 18 out of 22 reported a considerable improvement in their symptoms after a month. At least six weeks after the initial injection, 26 individuals went back for a second injection on the other side of their neck.

Most patients who improved after the first treatment reported better results after the second, while the injections did not impact those who showed no change after the first.

For individuals whose parosmia had a severe negative impact on their physical and emotional health, the treatment has been life-changing, according to co-author Adam Zoga.

Patients don't need to be sedated for the 10-minute outpatient stellate ganglion block operation. Physicians pinpoint the nerve bundle at the base of the neck using CT or ultrasound scans and then precisely inject that location.

I had a patient who has a young daughter, and she said, I can't give my 3-year-old daughter a bath because I can't stand the smell of her soap. Other patients had lost a ton of weight because they didn't find any food pleasurable.

- Zoga

He adds that whereas some medical professionals provide anesthetics, his team administers a combination of corticosteroids, short-acting and long-acting drugs, and other joint injections used for nerve blocks.

The technique needs technical competence because the stellate ganglion is situated close to two major blood arteries that supply blood to and from the brain. Yet, Zoga claimed that when given by a qualified individual, it's generally safe.

However, there is a side effect associated with the injection: most patients report drooping eyelids, dilated pupils, and mild visual loss for around 10 minutes, after which the symptoms go away.

Zoga concluded that his first patient's parosmia symptoms went away in a matter of weeks. According to Zoga, the patient is still completely relieved after 18 months apart.

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