A part of the sympathetic nervous system, called Stellate Ganglion (a collection of nerves in the neck) seems to control the activation of the amygdala. A recent innovation offers potential in rapidly treating symptoms of PTSD for a prolonged period of time. Placing an anesthetic agent on the stellate ganglion, in an anesthetic procedure called Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) can relieve the symptoms of PTSD in as little as 30 minutes and last for years. SGB “reboots” the sympathetic nervous system to its pre-trauma state, similar to a computer reboot. In the brain, norepinephrine levels are rapidly reduced and the extra nerve growth is removed. SGB is an anesthetic procedure that has been performed since 1925 and is considered a low risk pain procedure done under x-ray guidance.
Research results have been impressive. Incumbent PTSD treatments can take from months to years to work with success rates of under 40%. Overall SGB success rates have averaged 70-75% over the first nine years of use. In collaboration with neuroscientists and clinical observations, the author has modified the SGB procedure, resulting in current success rates in the 85 to 90% range.
Wider acceptance of Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) as a PTSD treatment began in 2008 when “The Annals of Clinical Psychiatry” published the article “Cervical Sympathetic Blockade in a Patient with PTSD”. Subsequently, four military institutions ( Walter Reed Hospital, San Diego Naval Hospital, Tripler Hospital, and the Long Beach California Veterans Administration Hospital) have successfully used SGB. The Long Beach VA doctors were able to demonstrate objective evidence of deactivation of the amygdala by examining PET scans (positron emission tomography) taken both before and two days after SGB. These promising results prompted the Department of Defense to commission a three-year, $2 million single blinded placebo control study of 242 active duty personnel diagnosed with PTSD. The study began late in 2015, and formal publication of the results are expected by summer 2019.