New PTSD Treatment Offers Relief With Neck Injections

Researchers say technique relieved symptoms in 70 percent of combat veterans

SGB treatment for combat troops and veterans suffering from PTSD

A new treatment option for PTSD called a stellate ganglion block, or SGB, could provide relief for combat troops and veterans suffering from the disorder.

A new report published in the October issue of Military Medicine found that an anesthesia technique called a stellate ganglion block, or SGB, could provide much needed relief for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The report showed that over 70 percent of combat veterans who received the treatment once or more said it relieved symptoms of PTSD such as sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression, as measured by a checklist in nearly 100 service members.

SGB works by injecting an anesthetic into a bundle of nerves located near the base of the neck. These nerves, called the stellate ganglion, are targeted using ultrasound guidance along with general anesthesia. After a one-week follow-up after their first injection, the study said that “78.6 percent of responders had an average reduction of their PTSD checklist score of 22 points.”

Game-changing relief

Dr. Eugene Lipov, a Chicago-based pain management specialist, has been using SGB to treat PTSD since 2008. Lipov knew of the nerve block’s relief for menopause-related hot flashes, and came to the conclusion that since the technique seems to restart the body’s temperature-regulating mechanism, it might also restart a PTSD patient’s overreaction to stimulus by way of interrupting the connections between the sympathetic nervous system and central nervous system.

“As a pain management specialist, I knew SGB relieved problems related to the sympathetic nerve system and thought it could work to relieve the hyperarousal characteristic of PTSD,” said Dr. Lipov.

Acceptance in the medical community

Although the procedure is showing signs of relief, it is not widely accepted as a treatment for PTSD. This is due to the fact that the disorder itself is still not fully understood. Currently, PTSD is classified as a psychiatric disorder, and physicians are reluctant to embrace a physical treatment like SGB for relief in what’s thought of as a mental health disorder.

“Pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy are only moderately helpful, at best,” said Dr. Maryam Navaie, a San Diego-based consultant. “We need more effective treatment options.”

SGB was first developed as a treatment for shoulder, neck and face pain caused by the shingles virus and complex regional pain syndrome. As far as a treatment for PTSD, the procedure usually lasts less than an hour for most patients. The complication rate is very rare, occurring in about 1.7 out of 1,000 procedures.

Current and future research

Even though the procedure isn’t a widely accepted form of treatment, SGB has been the focus of several recent studies. In October, a group of researchers from the Long Beach Veterans Affairs Healthcare System, California published results of an SGB treatment study on a group of 12 combat troops. Their results found that the procedure worked extremely well, with five out of the 12 patients feeling better afterwards and four describing SGB as a “miracle cure.”

To read more about SGB treatment for PTSD, click here: Neck Injections a Viable Treatment for PTSD, Researchers Say.


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