How A Stellate Ganglion Block Can Help Your PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), also referred to as post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI), is a medical condition which effects some people after exposure to a traumatic experience or event. In some people, untreated, the negative effects of PTSI can last for decades. PTSI can develop from exposure to many smaller traumas, or one significant traumatic event. Common traumatic events include sexual assault, childhood trauma, exposure to violence, domestic abuse, exposure to traumatic conditions as part of your job, a natural disaster, a car accident, and from experiences in combat.1 Symptoms of PTSI can range from disturbed sleep, nightmares, flashbacks (a vivid re-experiencing of past trauma), irrational “flash” anger, increased irritability, poor memory and concentration, and avoiding crowds or even people you know.

What Is A Stellate Ganglion Block?

A Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is a procedure that can alleviate the symptoms post-traumatic stress disorder. It involves precisely guiding a needle to the nerve controlling the fight-or-flight response in the neck and injecting a long-acting anesthetic. It is hypothesized that this procedure “resets” the fight-or-flight centers in the brain. What is known is that SGB for PTSD has excellent evidence (including a level 1 randomized controlled trial published in JAMA as well as 18 other peer-reviewed medical publications in over 10 years of clinical use) supporting the use of SGB to treat PTSI (PTSD) symptoms. SGB often works when even well-done professional counselling and properly prescribed medications fails to help.

The Procedure

Done properly, the SGB is a nearly painless and safe procedure. SGB is performed by the precise injection of a long-acting local anesthetic using ultrasound guidance to target the main nerve that controls your “fight or flight” response (the sympathetic nervous system). By targeting the sympathetic nervous system, the SGB procedure can result in significant long-term improvement in chronic anxiety symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress injury. Although a stellate ganglion block is effective at treating the symptoms of PTSD, it is important to note that SGB is not useful in treating bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, seizure disorder, personality disorders or other mental health conditions, although it may help treat the PTSD symptoms even in people with these other diagnoses.

When the SGB is performed properly, there are some painless and temporary changes which happen mostly around the eye (on the side that was treated) and last for several hours before completely resolving. In fact, we look for and measure these temporary changes to ensure a good SGB was performed. These changes are on the same side of the body that the SGB was done on and include:

  • The pupil will get smaller than the other pupil
  • The upper eyelid droop down
  • There may be redness in the white part of the eye (the sclera)
  • Nasal congestion (the nostril on the side that was blocked)

Although the procedure only takes 10 minutes, we will answer all of you questions before the procedure and watch you for at least 40 minutes after the procedure. Over 85% of patients haves effective and lasting relief of the symptoms of PTSD. The effects of the stellate ganglion block can be felt in as little as thirty minutes post procedure. After your procedure, we will continue to check in with you to make sure you are responding well.

Contact ROSM today to learn more about how a stellate ganglion block can help you or a loved one with PTSD.

Written by Dr. John