Quick background on Stellate ganglion block
SGB is new in its application as a treatment for PTSD, but it’s been used since 1925 – almost 100 years. It is well documented in medical literature as a treatment of choice for certain pain-related conditions and is typically administered by anesthesiologists with specific subspecialty training. SGB is considered a low risk procedure and is regularly used to this day.
How does Stellate Ganglion Block work to treat PTSD?
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) develops in response to trauma. It’s believed that nerves in the sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” response) branch out or grow after extreme trauma leading to elevated levels of norepinephrine (an adrenaline-like substance) which, in turn, over activates the brain’s fear center (the amygdala). Additional findings suggest the two areas of the brain which help keep the amygdala in check, the hippocampus and the anterior cingulate cortex, do not appear to function as well in those with PTSD. This chain of events results in PTSD symptoms that may persist for years or decades.
In other words, our baseline “normal” is changed dramatically after trauma exposures and some people become stuck in “fight or flight” mode. This phenomenon can be observed in certain types of brain scans.
The sympathetic nervous system has a collection of nerves in the neck called Stellate Ganglion and this seems to control the activation of the amygdala; SGB essentially “reboots” the sympathetic nervous system to its pre-trauma state, similar to a computer reboot. Placing an anesthetic agent on the stellate ganglion causes norepinephrine levels to reduce rapidly and the extra nerve growth retreats. This can relieve the symptoms of PTSD in as little as 30-minutes and last for years.