A troubled man leans against a wall, looking down A troubled man leans against a wall, looking down

Study Finds Common Anesthetic May Alleviate Symptoms of PTSD

A troubled man leans against a wall, looking downPosttraumatic stress (PTSD), which results from a traumatic life experience, can upend a person’s life, resulting in intrusive memories, nightmares, anxiety, depression, fear, avoidance, and a heightened startle reflex. While some medications can treat symptoms in some people, results are unpredictable, and side effects cause many people with posttraumatic stress to forgo drugs altogether. According to a small study of 12 patients, though, hope for PTSD could come in the form of a common anesthetic.

Anesthetic Might Treat PTSD         

Researchers followed 12 people with PTSD after administering a stellate ganglion block (SGB). The procedure injects local anesthesia into the neck, and is a common treatment for chronic pain and some other conditions. Researchers followed the patients for six months after the treatment, relying on psychological tests, such as structured interviews.

The effects of the SGB on PTSD symptoms were immediate. Seventy-five percent of participants reported significant improvement in symptoms of PTSD. Most patients who undergo SGB for pain experience improvements for only a few hours, but the effects were longer lasting among people with PTSD. Participants continued to experience improvements in their PTSD symptoms three months after the initial injection. By the six-month mark, though, the effects of SGB had leveled off and improvements diminished.

The study’s authors believe that SGB could also help alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety, since patients with PTSD saw improvements in these symptoms. They emphasize that further research could help uncover how and why SGB works to treat PTSD, in addition to providing information on which patients are good candidates for the procedure.

This isn’t the first time researchers have discovered evidence that anesthetic treatments can help people with posttraumatic stress. An earlier study found that IV administration of Ketamine, another common anesthetic, could also improve symptoms of PTSD.


  1. Common anesthetic procedure dramatically improves well being of veterans with PTSD. (2014, October 11). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141011172042.htm
  2. IV Ketamine Rapidly Effective in PTSD. (2014, April 14). Retrieved from http://www.medpagetoday.com/Psychiatry/AnxietyStress/45314

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  • Career Father

    October 16th, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    why would a simple drug or family of drugs cause such a great improvement in something such as PTSD. Is it because the patients experience a smaller amount of pain?

  • Realm Dweller

    October 19th, 2014 at 2:32 AM

    There is a physiological reaction in the brain causing a overly heightened expression of NGF (nerve growth factor) that aids memory and learning when exposed to the kind of scenario that causes PTSD. It spurs the development of nerve tissue, which makes sense of the correlation between PTSD and Fibromyalgia. This treatment is thought to flip the switch that causes the reaction the opposite way, resulting in relief from the symptoms.

  • dee

    October 20th, 2014 at 3:51 AM

    Now this is something that sounds promising!
    I know that this is not the first time that a drug that is supposed to help one thing would be founf to help improve the symptoms of something else.
    I have some worries that insurance will not cover the treatment particularly since it is being administered for something other than what it’s original intent is, but it is good news and moving in the right direction.

  • Nathaniel

    October 26th, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    pretty impressive results if they work across the board

  • kaleb

    October 28th, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    You also need to look at the long term effects and determine if there are going to be any lasting ramifications of using this off label. I know that there have been successes in the past with using things not for what they are specifically ear marked for but you still need to pay close attention and make sure that it will not do more harm than good.

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