New treatment could give relief to PTSD patients


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Thursday was National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. Treatments have been very limited in years past, but now could a doctor giving a shot to the neck be a possible cure? Not entirely, but it’s a pretty good start.

Robin Rhea from Knoxville is a PTSD patient. The disorder comes in different forms from military service to car accidents to Rhea’s case.

“I’m a sexual assault survivor,” she said.

Enter the Stellate Ganglion Block procedure. It’s essentially a shot in the neck to a large group of nerves that helps calm the constant anxiety patients experience, specifically their “fight or flight” response.

“I think of things as fear-based or threatening that might not be,” Rhea said.

That’s how she lived her life day in and day out until she got the procedure that lasted five to ten minutes. Once Dr. James Choo, a West Knoxville pain doctor, found the complex of nerves using dye, he injected it with a drug similar to Novocaine.

“What this does is give the body a break from this sympathetic surge, this feeling that you’re always kind of revved up,” said Choo.

“It’s really created some space in my brain patterns that allow me to have fewer crisis-based options,” Rhea said.

That wasn’t always the case for Rhea. Her PTSD after her assault left her feeling isolated and even suicidal because she thought her mindset was no way to live.

“I was on several medications and trying to self medicate in order to reduce anxiety, and I was really struggling in my personal life. It’s a disease that really makes you want to die. I hate to say it because there’s so much stigma attached to it, but it really makes you want to die,” she said.

After a few very emotional moments, Rhea explained how this new use for this treatment is affecting her life.

“It’s so significant to not feel like dying and not feel so much anxiety but to really have your brain have better thoughts and better options available, It feels like a super power that I’ve been given,” Rhea said. “I’m really excited to have more life available to me and to experience it. “

Rhea says she noticed a difference immediately and her family and friends now describe her as an improved person.

It’s important to note this treatment works differently for everyone and is not covered by insurance. The U.S. Department of Defense is heading up the research for medical use and studies are still being done to fine tune it for PTSD patients.

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