Combining a stellate ganglion block with prolonged exposure therapy for posttraumatic stress disorder: A nonrandomized clinical trial.

Peterson, A. L., Straud, C. L., Young-McCaughan, S., McCallin, J. P., Hoch, M., Roux, N. P. III, Koch, L., Lara-Ruiz, J., Roache, J. D., Hein, J. M., & Blount, T. H., for the STRONG STAR Consortium.
Sep 2, 2022

Journal of Traumatic Stress. Advance online publication.

Prolonged exposure therapy (PE) is an efficacious treatment for active duty service members and veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, PE is sometimes associated with high dropout rates, limited tolerability, and temporary symptom exacerbation during treatment. Stellate ganglion blocks (SGBs) are an emerging treatment that has the potential to enhance outcomes for PTSD when combined with trauma-focused psychotherapy. To date, no study of which we are aware has examined the potential additive benefits of SGB injections when administered in conjunction with trauma-focused behavioral treatment for PTSD. Thus, we conducted a nonrandomized clinical trial to evaluate the use of an SGB combined with massed PE therapy for combat-related PTSD. Participants (N = 12) were treated with 10 daily 90-min PE sessions delivered over 2 weeks and received a single SGB injection between Sessions 1 and 2. PE sessions lasted 90 min each. Participants reported a mean posttreatment PTSD symptom reduction of 32 points on the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), Hedges’ gs = 1.28–2.80. Most participants (90.9%) demonstrated clinically significant change on the PCL-5 (i.e., ≥10 points) by the final treatment session and 50.0% no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD per the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-5 at 1-month follow-up. Adverse events for the combined treatment were consistent with those previously reported for standalone SGB and PE. This combined treatment approach provides promising results for improving the tolerability of trauma-focused therapies, reducing symptom severity, and increasing PTSD remission rates.