Post-traumatic stress disorder is now a very well-known anxiety disorder that typically follows exposure to a traumatic event such as combat, disaster or assault. Symptoms can include nightmares, paranoia, irritability and aggressiveness, among others. Depression is usually a major theme among sufferers, often leading to substance abuse or suicide. There have been ways to manage suffering, but nothing that has offered a more permanent solution.
Standard treatments for PTSD often include cognitive behavioral therapy, medications that contain selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), assistance from service animals, and even the somewhat out-of-the-box treatment, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR).
But thanks to some new science, those treatments could soon be obsolete.
Is Relief Closer Than We Expected?
Dr. Eugene Lipov, medical director of Advanced Pain Centers in Chicago, may have discovered a much simpler form of help — a treatment called the stellate ganglion block (SGB). This federally-approved injection could revive hope in the thousands of veterans suffering from PTSD. The injection itself only takes about 15 minutes to administer, and, according to Lipov, participants who have been administered the block have reported relief from symptoms in as little as 30 minutes.
The treatment is a simple local anesthetic that is injected into a collection of nerves in the neck known as the stellate ganglion. These specific nerves are connected to various parts of the brain, which are thought to be associated with PTSD.
Research has found that PTSD develops as a person comes under massive stress, which increases the level of nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF prompts the growth of new sympathetic nerves, releasing a hormone called norepinephrine, which controls our “fight-or-flight” response in the body and directly increases the heart rate and blood pressure.
Lipov believes that these high levels of NGF cause a heightened sensitivity to environmental stimulus. The injected SGB essentially helps to reduce NGF activity, leading to the decline of norepinephrine in a person’s system. Lipov has currently treated 65 patients; however, in order to keep performing the procedure, the organization relies on donations. The cost of the injection is approximately $1,000 and is fully covered by the non-profit Chicago Medical Innovations.
This clinical trial, which started with a waiver from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is currently recruiting participants for a clinical trial, but is not backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs for treating PTSD in soldiers.
Photo courtesy Sarah G…