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National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships

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HAP Healthcare Advancement Initiative News

Innovative treatment produces positive results for Veterans diagnosed with PTSD

Ms. Amy Treadwell has seen first-hand the effects that an injection to the neck can have on a Veteran diagnosed with PTSD. The relief is nearly instant— and they often break down in tears.

“Many Veterans say that it’s like taking a weighted vest off for the first time after a long workout,” said Ms. Treadwell, PTSD/SGB Program Care Coordinator at VA Long Beach Healthcare System. “The Veteran feels more relaxed.”

The procedure is known as stellate ganglion block (SGB) and clinical staff at VA Long Beach have been treating Veterans in southern California with the procedure since 2017. During the outpatient procedure, medical staff inject an anesthetic into a bundle of nerves, called the stellate ganglion, located at the base of the neck. The anesthetic lasts only a few hours, but the effects often reduce a Veteran’s anxiety and feelings of hyperalertness for months or longer.

“It’s always heartwarming when a Veteran immediately experiences positive results from SGB treatment,” said Ms. Treadwell. The registered nurse is also enlisted in the Army Reserves and has served in the military for 24 years. She says that the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the long-term benefits SGB treatment creates for a Veteran’s family. “Veterans often share that the relief they experienced from SGB treatment allows them to overcome the stress of everyday situations—like work or parenting. Those are the stories I really love.”

SGB is not considered an established first-line treatment for PTSD; there is growing evidence that SGB may help alleviate PTSD symptoms. Each Veteran who undergoes SGB treatment at VA Long Beach is strongly encouraged to also participate in other “gold standard” or evidence-based psychotherapies that are known to effectively treat PTSD, such as cognitive processing therapy and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.

VHA’s National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP, formerly CCI) collaborates with staff at VA Long Beach Healthcare System as part of a program evaluation on the use of SGB in combination with psychotherapy for Veterans with PTSD.

“There is great potential to provide relief to more Veterans with PTSD thanks to the collaborative work between HAP and VA Long Beach,” said Ms. Christine Eickhoff, HAP team member and health systems specialist. “This could be a powerful addition to current evidence-based treatment programs for Veterans who continue to struggle with PTSD symptoms and have trouble engaging in psychotherapy.”

Through the program evaluation, HAP and VA Long Beach clinicians will identify best practices for providing SGB in combination with evidence-based PTSD treatments and share these operational outcomes with VA providers. Their goal is simple: To help more Veterans see the same life-changing results that Ms. Treadwell has seen in her patients since 2017.

For more information on SGB or HAP, visit

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Posted April 26, 2021