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Nerve Block Successfully Treats Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

After the procedure, two Iraq combat veterans stopped antipsychotic and antidepressant meds

FRIDAY, May 7 (HealthDay News) -- The injection of a local anesthetic in a cervical vertebra to create a stellate ganglion block (SGB) in the sympathetic nervous system has been shown to successfully relieve the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans of combat in Iraq, according to case reports from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center published online April 20 in Pain Practice.

Sean W. Mulvaney, M.D., of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues describe two veterans who were treated with the placement of an SGB on the right side at C6 level. On the day prior to treatment and the day after, the patients' PTSD symptoms were evaluated with the PTSD Checklist (PCL).

Mulvaney and colleagues write that both patients experienced immediate, significant and lasting relief. Their post-treatment PCL scores no longer indicated PTSD, whereas the pretreatment scores had indicated PTSD. One patient asked for another treatment after three months, and his post-treatment score remained below the PTSD diagnostic cutoff after follow-up for seven more months. As a result of the treatment, both patients were taken off antipsychotic and antidepressant medications and were able to maintain their improved scores on the PCL.

"Selective blockade of the right stellate ganglion at C6 level is a safe and minimally invasive procedure that may provide durable relief from PTSD symptoms, allowing the safe discontinuation of psychiatric medications," the authors write.

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