New treatment can help people who lost their sense of smell or taste after COVID-19.
People who have lost their sense of smell (called anosmia) because of long-term COVID-19 can get it back with a treatment called stellate ganglion block.
Most of the time, doctors use anesthesia to numb any part of the body during this process to treat pain. In this treatment for COVID-19, the drug is put into a certain group of nerves on both sides of the neck. These nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system. The nervous system is in charge of the body’s most important tasks, like breathing.
Doctors are arguing about how it affects a person’s life. Some question the method, while others see real improvements once people can taste and smell again.
As people get older, smell problems and anosmia become more common and affect a lot of people. The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders found that one out of every eight people in the US over the age of 40 has some kind of problem with their sense of smell.
A study done last year found that 15% of people who got COVID-19 still have problems with their senses of smell and taste even after several months.
There is no good way to treat this, but studies have shown that sniffing rose, eucalyptus, lemon, and clove pennies twice a day for at least three months helps.
tries to bring back the smell
The method of stellate ganglion block is being offered by doctors at Cleveland in the hopes of clinical trials.
Jennifer Henderson, 54, who got a stellate ganglion block at Cleveland for COVID-19, had the same problem because she couldn’t taste or smell anything. She could smell the coffee after the shot.
Henderson said, “It smelled so good that I cried like a baby.”
Dr. Christina Shin, a doctor at the hospital who specializes in pain management, said she had handled about 30 patients like this, and about half of them got their senses back. She thought that “the level of improvement could be anywhere from 25% to 90%.”
Amazing results like Handerson’s gave people hope again, but doctors still have doubts about the process.
Some say the shot makes the sympathetic nerves work again, while others say it makes the blood move faster.
Dr. Justin Turner, an associate professor in the department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, thinks there is no proof that it works.
“Given the lack of evidence that it works, it’s hard to advocate for this for people with problems that usually go away on their own,” he said.
Stanford University’s Dr. Zara Patel said that 80% of people get better on their own within six months.
“Every olfactory receptor neuron dies, and a new one comes in to take its place, probably every three to four months for the rest of our lives,” Patel said.
The way a person smells is called parosmia, and it can have a big effect on their life. In 2021, UK researchers found that people were worried. what they thought about their kids.
“The smell is a big part of how I feel about my children as a mother,” a woman was quoted as saying in the study.
Other ways to get the smell back
The COVID-19 stellate ganglion block is not the only way to solve the situation. Patel, who works at Stanford, did a study to see if injecting platelet-rich plasma could help neurons work properly.
During the process, all of the parts of a person’s blood except for growth factors and platelets are taken out. This helps different types of tissues grow.
Patel said, “We hope that what the platelet-rich plasma is doing is regenerating those neurons in a way that sends the right signal back to the brain.”
In the experiment, those who got the plasma said they felt better 12 times more often than those who got a fake medicine. Patel is now giving this procedure to people who have this problem.
Is the treatment for stellate ganglion block effective?
In December 2021, Dr. Luke Liu, a pain expert in Anchorage, treated a patient with a stellate ganglion block that worked well. This spread the word about this treatment.
He also said that some of the patients’ other ailments have gotten better.
He thought that the problem was caused by glitches in the nervous system caused by long-term COVID effects, but the stellate ganglion block restarts the nervous system.
He helped about 300 people and said that 60–70% of them got better.
He did say, though, that it is too soon to say for sure how well the treatment works, suggesting that more research is needed in this area.