House Bill 5648 authorizes the Veterans Administration to use injections to anesthetize a collection of nerves known as the stellate ganglion as a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment. That bill is currently being considered in the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health. Jay Ostrich, a combat veteran helped advocate for the bill. The bill provides that the Secretary of the VA will furnish the block to
- any veteran enrolled in the VA Health System
- who has been diagnosed with PTSD and
- who has elected to receive the treatment after their physician has informed them of the risks and benefits.
The stellate ganglion is found near the base of the neck. Physicians have used a stellate ganglion block (SGB) for many years to diagnose and manage pain in the neck, chest, or arms. Now researchers believe that SGB can relieve severe PTSD symptoms such as hyperarousal, exaggerated startle responses, and anxiety. Veterans who have received SGB for nerve pain have reported its effectiveness in also reducing anxiety and hypervigilance, Jay Ostrich says.
The patient receives a local anesthetic or is sedated when receiving the SGB. During the procedure, a doctor uses an X-ray or ultrasound to guide them to the spot where a fine needle injects the anesthetic. SGB may reduce anxiety enough to allow the patient to benefit from traditional treatments such as talk therapy, says Jay Ostrich. SGB does not work for everyone, but it is a promising procedure for those veterans whose PTSD has not responded well to other treatments, says Jay Ostrich. SGB has very few severe side effects when performed by a trained clinician, Jay Ostrich says.
Jay Ostrich joined the Air Force in response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. At 32, he was the oldest member of his Boot Camp class. Jay Ostrich served at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the Media Operations Center during Operation Iraqi Freedom and then served another combat tour throughout East Africa fighting violent extremist organizations in Operation Enduring Freedom. His work appeared in the New York Times, and he was a chief spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) while stationed in Djibouti. Jay Ostrich was a combat journalist who has received several awards for his writing, including Air Force Feature Writer of the Year once and National Guard Bureau Feature Writer of the Year three times. He continues to serve in the Air National Guard as a major in the 193rd Special Operations Wing. Jay Ostrich is a graduate of the University of Arizona, Villanova School of Law, and the U.S. Air Force Academy of Military Science, and is an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and an active public speaker advocating for innovative, compassionate treatment for PTSD.