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Doctors Cure PTSD With Injection In Neck

Doctors Cure PTSD With Injection In Neck

Military doctors now want to cure PTSD with one single injection to the neck…

U.S. Navy doctors are having success researching a new technique to treat post-traumatic-stress-disorder. The procedure, called stellate-ganglion block (SGB), involves one simple injection to the neck, which appears to have the ability to switch off PTSD within minutes.

SGB is the brainchild of Dr. Eugene Lipov, a Chicago anesthesiologist who has touted the method for years but has been repeatedly turned down when requesting Pentagon funding for further research.

Despite being rejected 4 times, the most recent in Nov 2011, Lipov’s work has gained support from influential figures such as Barak Obama. He’s also treated dozens’ of military personnel and veterans with great results.

dr hickey - dr lipov - sgb treat ptsd

Dr. Lipov and Dr. Hickey

However at the same time as Lipov’s rejected requests, Capt. Anita Hickey, director of Integrative Pain Medicine at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, thought the concept had potential and made her own application, for which she received $100,000.

Thanks to the funding, Hickey is now half way through a long-term evaluation of SGB in 42 Naval personnel diagnosed with PTSD, and reports suggest the method is effective.

Hickey’s experience in holistic research for the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD, along with the amount of money requested – she asked for $100,000 where as Lipov was seeking more than $1.5 million – are the likely factors that landed her the funding when Lipov’s were denied.

Reviewers who rejected Lipov’s recent $1.6 million study noted that the proposal was too ambitious and costly for something that still lacked “a convincing neurobiological explanation.”

Lipov first used SGB to treat hot flashes in post-menopausal women until 2007, when he came across a Finnish paper that suggested the technique could be used to treat PSTD.

He found that preliminary attempts worked exceptionally well – the method seemed to alleviate PTSD symptoms within five minutes.

Unfortunately, Lipov wasn’t quiet sure how the technique worked, a major factor for the denial of his request. But in 2009 he published a paper in Medical Hypothesis describing how SGB worked to treat PTSD.

Lipov hypothesized that the injection of anesthetic into sympathetic nervous tissue in the neck appears to switch off the nerve growth factor. The Nerve growth factor rises dramatically during stressful experiences promoting the sprouting of nerves. This triggers chronic stress, often referred to as the ‘fight or flight’ response. Dr. Hickey explains:

“If somebody’s circuitry is going haywire, then the anesthetic shuts it off, and reboots the system…

“I think of SGB as being similar to re-starting a computer, only we’re talking about circuitry of the nervous system and chemical pathways,”

The technique is not without risk though. Although complications are rare, the injections can trigger seizures, hit an artery, or even puncture the lung.

The military is desperate to treat symptoms of PTSD, and it’s clear why. The condition is estimated to affect 250,000 soldiers from this decade alone, and thousands more from conflicts prior to that. The Navy alone is currently funding 82 different studies on potential PTSD treatments, but so far none have shown such promise a SGB.

With a little luck Hickey’s research will not only show the method’s effectiveness of SGB to treat PTSD, but it will also pave the way for larger clinical trails that will hopefully lead to a readily available treatment for a condition that haunts many of our country’s soldiers.

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  1. Katie Drummond: Navy Gives Neck Injections A Shot At Curing PTSD. Wired, 12/13/2011.
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