Military Connection: DOD Awards $2 Million Grant for PTSD Research

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By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded a $2 million grant to RTI International, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.

The DOD grant will allow RTI International to lead the first randomized, controlled trials of a procedure to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms by injecting an anesthetic into the nerve tissue at the base of the patient’s neck. Initial research has found basis to believe that the procedure, called Stellate Ganglion Block, has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms. The procedure is intended to block the sympathetic nerve system in order to relieve the physical stress that is associated with instances of PTSD symptoms. In other words, this procedure combats the “fight or flight” feeling that is associated with PTSD.

Stellate Ganglion Block has been in use for about 100 years, mostly for treating chronic pain of the limbs. Only in the last few years has the procedure been used as a treatment for PTSD symptoms. The use of Stellate Ganglion Block is not being proposed as a cure for PTSD; raher, a way to alleviate symptoms. The traumatic experiences that caused the disorder will not be erased from the PTSD sufferer’s mind. But the procedure will help relieve the anxiety that the memories of those traumatic experiences cause.

As part of RTI International’s three year study, three military hospitals were chosen: Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany; Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; and Womack Army Medical Center at Fort Bragg, in California. The three facilities were chosen because they had previously used Stellate Ganglion Block to treat PTSD, on a limited basis. The study will enroll 250 active duty service members who have been diagnosed with PTSD.

For the study, participants will receive two injections, two weeks apart. The injections will be followed by mental health assessments that will be conducted at weeks 4, 6 and 8. The assessments will include a qualitative component to gather impressions of the procedure from the patients, their families, behavioral therapists and psychiatrists. The study will also use a placebo control group that will receive injections of saline.

Unfortunately, PTSD is an affliction that is rampant in the military community. It has been estimated that as many as 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffer from the disorder. For the most part, prescribed treatments for PTSD included a lot of prescription drugs. The heavy use of drugs does little to treat the patient, and more often than not leads to other mental and physical health problems, including substance abuse of these very same prescribed drugs.

Proponents of Stellate Ganglion Block claim that the procedure is a low-risk injection that has very few negative side effects.

Our service members and Veterans deserve the very best treatment for whatever ails them. If any new procedure or method of care arises that could improve the lives of those who serve, then those procedures and methods should be given a chance.

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Military Connection: DOD Awards $2 Million Grant for PTSD Research: By Debbie Gregory