A new study has revealed a potential breakthrough in the treatment of long COVID symptoms, specifically alterations or loss of taste and smell. These symptoms, known as phantosmia and parosmia, can persist for months in individuals with long COVID, greatly impacting their quality of life. The study focused on a procedure called a “stellate ganglion block,” which involves injecting an anesthetic into the stellate ganglion nerve cluster in the neck to stimulate the autonomic nervous system. While this technique has been used for other conditions, it had not been studied as a treatment for long COVID symptoms until now.
The study included 54 participants who had not responded to traditional medical treatments for parosmia. Of the 37 participants who were followed up with, 22 reported improved symptoms one week after the treatment. These individuals also experienced significant additional improvement one month later, and after three months, an average 49% improvement in symptoms was observed among the group. Moreover, 86% of those who responded to the first injection experienced further improvements after a second injection administered to the other side of the neck. However, those who did not respond to the first injection also did not respond to the second. It is important to note that these findings have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
While the research is still in its early stages, experts are optimistic about the potential of this treatment. Persistent olfactory dysfunction is a long-term symptom of COVID-19 that significantly affects the quality of life of affected individuals. Therefore, a minimally invasive therapy that shows a rapid response rate at four weeks could provide early intervention for the 15% of patients with persistent olfactory dysfunction one year after COVID-19. However, there are limitations to this approach, such as the fact that not everyone has a stellate ganglion that doctors can target with the block.
Managing long COVID and its associated symptoms is a multifaceted task. In addition to general healthy living advice, such as getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol and tobacco use, and prioritizing rest and relaxation, individuals with long COVID can benefit from finding a support network of others experiencing the same condition. Support groups like Body Politic, Survivor Corps, and Long COVID Support are available for this purpose. Additionally, adopting a healthy diet that reduces inflammation may help alleviate or shorten the duration of long COVID symptoms, as inflammation is believed to be a common factor in various long COVID symptoms, including olfactory dysfunction.
In conclusion, the potential breakthrough in the treatment of long COVID symptoms targeting the stellate ganglion is promising. However, further research is needed to fully understand the limitations and potential of this treatment. In the meantime, individuals with long COVID can explore various strategies to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.