Stellate Ganglion Blockade in Post-Menopausal Women (R01)

  • End date
    Aug 31, 2022
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    David Walega
Updated on 1 March 2022
endocrine therapy
sleep disturbances
hormone therapy
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor
night sweats
serum fsh
Accepts healthy volunteers


Hot flashes and night sweats (vasomotor symptoms, VMS) affect 80% of women during the menopausal transition (MT). VMS are associated with decreased quality of life, increased depressive and anxiety symptoms, memory complaints, sleep disturbance, and reduced work productivity. Hormone therapy (HT) is highly effective in reducing VMS, but the use of HT declined 75% to 80% in the U.S. after the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) raised safety concerns about HT. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved paroxetine, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI; 7.5 mg), as the first non-hormonal treatment for VMS. SSRIs are an important treatment option for many women, but their use in treating VMS is limited by lower effectiveness when compared to HT, side effects, and relapse of symptoms following treatment discontinuation. Identifying safe and effective non-hormonal treatments for VMS remains a priority in women's health research.

Stellate ganglion blockade (SGB), used for decades in pain management, is a potential new approach to VMS treatment. Located in the cervical spine region, the stellate ganglia are part of the sympathetic nervous system. Although SGB is commonly performed to treat neuropathic pain, hyperhidrosis or vascular insufficiency, anatomic studies reveal connections between this ganglion and thermoregulatory regions of the brain, specifically the insular cortex.

In this clinical trial, we aim to assess whether stellate ganglion block (SGB) with bupivacaine, a local anesthetic, is an effective and safe non-hormonal intervention for women seeking relief from vasomotor symptoms (VMS), and identify the physiologic mechanisms underlying SGB effects. Outcomes will include frequency and intensity of hot flashes, objectively-measured VMS, mood, quality of life, sleep, and memory performance in 160 postmenopausal women with 50 or more moderate to very severe hot flashes per week as measured by self-report for six months. They will be reassessed at 3 and 6 months following the SGB or a sham intervention for objective hot flashes and quality of life measures. Mechanistic outcomes (neuroimaging) will be obtained at baseline and 3 months following the intervention. Ambulatory monitoring of sympathetic nervous system function (SKNA) will be performed at baseline before the procedure, during the procedure and 1 hour following the procedure. This will be repeated at 2 and four weeks following the SGB or sham procedure for 1 hour recordings.



Post-menopausal women with moderate to severe VMS will be enrolled as participants in this study.

Specific Goals and Objectives:

Primary Objective

  1. To determine the effect of SGB for reducing frequency and intensity of menopausal VMS.

Hypothesis 1a. Seven-day mean frequency of VMS will be lower in women randomized to active SGB compared to sham control.

Hypothesis 1b. Seven-day mean intensity of VMS will be lower in women randomized to active SGB compared to sham control.

Hypothesis 1c. The VMS Intensity (Frequency*Severity), will be lower in women randomized to active SGB compared to sham control.

Secondary Objectives

2. To evaluate the effect of SGB on VMS Intensity, objective VMS, mood, memory, and sleep quality.

Hypothesis 2a The frequency of objectively measured VMS will be lower in women randomized to active SGB compared to sham control.

Hypothesis 2b. Depressive symptoms and memory, but not sleep quality, will improve more in women randomized to active SGB compared to sham control.

Hypothesis 2c. The magnitude of improvements in memory will relate to the magnitude of reduction in VMS, even after controlling for sleep.

3. To probe the mechanisms by which SGB improves VMS.

Hypothesis 3a. In a nested sub study, neuroimaging assessments will reveal that compared to sham control, active SGB is associated with a) decreased functional connectivity in the default mode network during the resting state, particularly for networks supporting the insula and hippocampus; b) reduced activation in the hippocampus, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, and anterior cingulate during a verbal memory task; and c) reduced activation in the amygdala during an emotion processing task.

Hypothesis 3b. Compared to sham control, SGB will immediately diminish ipsilateral stellate ganglion nerve activity and sympathetic tone as measured by skin sympathetic nerve monitoring (SKNA) and these effects will be reassessed at 2 and 4 weeks after the intervention to assess if effects of SGB on stellate ganglion activity are long lasting.

Condition Hot Flashes, Hot Flushes, Vasomotor Symptoms
Treatment Saline Injection, Stellate Ganglion Block injection with bupivicaine
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02907983
SponsorDavid Walega
Last Modified on1 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

post-menopausal woman defined according to the following criteria: 12 months of spontaneous amenorrhea or 6 months of spontaneous amenorrhea with serum FSH levels ≥ 40 IU/ml or 6 weeks postsurgical bilateral oophorectomy with or without hysterectomy
aged 40 to 70 years
50 or more reported moderate-to-severe hot flashes per week
a minimum of two weeks of VMS diary recording prior to SGB
post-menopausal women whose vasomotor symptoms are refractory to approved oral treatments (i.e., hormone therapy or paroxetine) or for whom hormone therapy is contraindicated or for women who refuse any oral therapy
willingness to undergo fluoroscopy-guided SGB or sham treatment
safety labs within 30 days of SGB intervention

Exclusion Criteria

conditions that preclude SGB or sham intervention (e.g., anatomic abnormalities of the anterior neck or cervical spine ; goiter, cardiac/pulmonary compromise; contralateral (left-sided) phrenic nerve paralysis or diaphragmatic paresis; history of seizure, coma, or stroke; history of neurologic deficit to the brachial plexus or an abnormal brachial plexus neurologic exam; history of Zenker's diverticulum; acute illness/infection; coagulopathy or bleeding abnormalities; INR >1.3; hemoglobin<9.0, platelets <100,000, BUN ≥ 30mg/dl; creatinine ≥ 2 mg/ml; ALT (SGPT), AST (SGOT), Alk Phos ≥ three times the upper limit of normal; serum potassium (K+) ≤ 3.5 or ≥ 5.0 mEq/L allergic reactions or contraindications to a local anesthetic or contrast dye, systolic blood pressure (SBP) >140 mm Hg or diastolic blood pressure (DBP) >90 mm Hg, pregnancy
If LMP is between 6 to 12 months, FSH < 40
use of treatments less than the washout period and throughout study participation that can affect VMS frequency or severity, including oral (2 months) or transdermal hormone therapy(1 month), botanicals (e.g., soy, red clover, black cohosh, etc.)(1 month), oral contraceptives(2 months), serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) (2 weeks), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI),( 2 weeks) gabapentin, pregabalin, clonidine, selective estrogen receptor modulators, aromatase inhibitors, tissue selective estrogen complexes;(2months)
use of aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for 3 days prior to the SGB procedure; all other anti-platelet or anticoagulation medications will be discontinued with the permission of the participant's prescribing physician
for cognition testing: conditions or disorders that can affect performance on cognitive tests (e.g., dementia/mild cognitive impairment, Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) less than or equal to 27) at baseline; stroke; traumatic brain injury; alcohol/substance use; inability to write, speak, or read in English, English as a second language, participation in other studies involving tests of cognitive abilities
conditions that can affect depressive symptoms (e.g., current diagnosis of major depression, bipolar disorder, or other Axis I Psychiatric disorder); Personal Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-8)> 15
Exclusion criteria for neuroimaging study: implantable pulse generators for pacemakers, defibrillator devices and most but not all spinal cord stimulators or deep brain stimulator, ferrous-containing metals within the body (e.g., braces, aneurysm clips, shrapnel/retained particles) inability to tolerate small, enclosed spaces without anxiety (e.g. claustrophobia), weight > 300 lbs. unless height is sufficiently high [e.g., + 5'11"] so that waist and shoulder circumference do not prevent her from fitting in the scanner; opted out of cognition study, shift work
Exclusion criteria for SKNA study only allergic to adhesive in electrode
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