Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a severe mental health condition impacting nearly 10 million American adults. People develop PTSD after experiencing a significant traumatic or stress-inducing event. Triggering scenarios include serious accidents, witnessing or being the victim of a crime, natural disasters, and the unexpected loss of a loved one.
People with PTSD develop a heightened fight-or-flight response that can interfere with their ability to live a normal life. They may experience vivid flashbacks of the traumatizing event, have difficulty sleeping, and may isolate themselves to avoid triggers.
PTSD treatments aim to mitigate symptom severity and frequency by helping individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the body’s reactivity. The most common treatment protocols include talk therapies, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety prescriptions.
What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?
Research on PTSD treatment has found that as many as 1 in 3 individuals do not respond to traditional treatment approaches. Studies suggest that biological differences may make some people much less responsive to therapy and medication.
A stellate ganglion block (SGB) is a noninvasive procedure that disrupts the flight or flight response by preventing a small cluster of nerves from sending stress and pain signals to the brain. During an SGB, a clinician injects a local anesthetic into the stellate ganglion, a bundle of nerves located to the left or right of the voice box.
SGB is FDA-approved for treating chronic pain. However, it has been used safely as a treatment for PTSD for more than three decades. The Stellate ganglion block success rate is more than 75% more effective than traditional PTSD treatments.
Benefits of Stellate Ganglion Block
Stellate ganglion block injections are a promising solution for people with treatment-resistant PTSD.
The stellate ganglion is responsible for transmitting pain signals from the head, neck, upper body, and arms. An SGB injection eliminates chronic neck and upper body pain by disrupting communication between the ganglion and the brain.
SGB injections are localized and fast-acting. Clients can experience relief within half an hour of completing the procedure.
Fight-or-Flight Response Reset
Research suggests that PTSD develops due to the body’s inability to “shut off” the fight-or-flight response. SGB injections block the nerve signals that initiate the response in the brain.
Cutting this communication allows the brain to enter an “at-rest” state for several hours. This is enough to reset the body’s stress response and return to its baseline, non-anxiety levels.
PTSD symptoms like nightmares, agitation, and extreme vigilance, can interfere with the body’s sleep cycles. Many people with PTSD develop chronic insomnia, which exacerbates other symptoms, such as anxiety and fatigue.
SGB injections reduce negative cognitive activity that impairs sleep and improves sleep quality. Resolving sleep issues can accelerate trauma processing and healing and reduce the severity of PTSD symptoms.
Improved Quality of Life
After receiving an SGB injection for depression, many clients also experience a notable reduction in anxiety and pain. This can improve other symptoms such as avoidance and hypervigilance, and enhance the effectiveness of other PTSD therapies.
SGB is an outpatient procedure that takes less than 15 minutes to complete. The clinician uses imaging equipment to locate the stellate ganglion and will administer the injection through a very thin needle.
How long does a stellate ganglion block last?
Stellate ganglion block injections are effective within 30 minutes of delivery and the acute pain-relieving effects can last for several hours. However, the anti-anxiety results can last for months after treatment. The stellate ganglion block success rate rises with each consecutive injection.
Does stellate ganglion block disrupt anxiety?
Clinicians are exploring the use of SGB for anxiety. There is some evidence that SGB injections lower anxiety by resetting the fight-or-flight response. However, further research is needed.
Does SGB require hospitalization?
SGB therapy is a completely outpatient procedure, so no hospitalization is needed. However, clients should remain under observation for up to an hour after the procedure. Additionally, clients should avoid operating a vehicle or heavy machinery directly after treatment.
Is stellate ganglion block covered by insurance?
Stellate ganglion block injections are covered by most insurance policies when given for an FDA-approved use. Despite the impressive stellate ganglion block success rate, SGB shots are not yet approved. For this reason, clients must pay out of pocket for this treatment.
Stellate Ganglion Block Success Rate
Stellate ganglion block has a very high rate of success when compared to other PTSD treatments. Traditional treatments are effective for 4 in 10 cases of PTSD. However, SGB reduces PTSD symptoms for 9 out of 10 recipients. While short-term results of SGB are immediate, long-term treatment results increase with continued and prolonged use.