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Could PTSD Be Cured With a Single Injection?

Could PTSD Be Cured With a Single Injection?

"“I think of SGB as being similar to re-starting a computer..."

It may look all attempts by this Chicago-area anesthesiologist, who believes he may have found a way to cure post-traumatic stress disorder with a shot, are in vain. Wired reports that Dr. Eugene Lipov has been rejected by the military for government funding four times -- the most recent of which was last month.

The reviewers of his most recent study are reported as saying it was too expensive and didn't have “a convincing neurobiological explanation.”

But the ears of at least one Navy doctor were perked. Enough so that research is going forward on stellate-ganglion block (SGB), a mechanism that both Lipov and Capt. Anita Hickey think could hold the key to helping patients with PTSD.

Wired has more:

“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,” says Capt. Anita Hickey. Hickey is the director of Integrative Pain Medicine at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, where she’s studied a variety of new approaches to PTSD diagnosis and treatment among military personnel, including brain scans and acupuncture. “We’re seeing very positive results.”

The study is the latest evidence of the Pentagon’s increasing desperation to get a handle on PTSD — a frequently debilitating condition that affects an estimated 250,000 soldiers just from this decade’s wars, and thousands more from earlier conflicts. Doctors across the country are getting Pentagon dollars to study ideas as far-out as dog therapy and “digital dreaming” software. Capt. Hickey says that the Navy alone is currently funding 82 different studies on potential PTSD treatments. So far, nothing’s proven to be a magic bullet.

Wired reports that when Hickey heard about Lipov's idea, she thought it could work, even while many others were it. Hickey is currently conducting research on this concept with 42 soldiers diagnosed with PTSD. According to Wired, Lipov, who was initially treating post-menopausal women with a similar technique, decided to test SGB on PTSD patients of his after reading an old study. He said it seemed to being working on patients within five minutes:

After subsequent research, however, Lipov in 2009 published a paper in Medical Hypothesis – a journal whose stated mission is to “publish radical, speculative and non-mainstream ideas” — describing how SGB seems to work. The injection of anesthetic, administered into a bundle of sympathetic nervous tissue in the neck, appears to turn off something called nerve growth factor. Nerve growth factor can surge during stressful experiences and promote the sprouting of nerves. That triggers chronic stress — what’s commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.

“If somebody’s circuitry is going haywire, then the anesthetic shuts it off, and reboots the system,” Dr. Hickey says.

According to Wired, this injection which one soldier said made him feel "relaxed and calmed down", does have risks, such as seizures and the potential for puncturing an artery or lung during the injection.

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