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posted: 7/5/2013 8:59 AM

Editorial: PTSD treatment warrants more study

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a sad and perplexing condition that affects victims of violence and trauma and, notably, many of our military service veterans. On average, studies show, about 20 veterans a day commit suicide to escape the horrors of war that just don't end.

That suicide rate hasn't changed appreciably in about 12 years, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but still no magic pill exists to eradicate the suffering.

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Modern medicine has taken steps to address the kind of psychological damage that similarly has affected those who served in Afghanistan as well as those who fought in the Revolutionary War, but questions of their efficacy remain.

Most veterans who commit suicide are men in their 50s. But one has to think that those servicemen and women from Desert Storm through today will change those stats over time.

We roll our eyes sometimes at the breadth and costliness of government programs. We question the efficiency of Medicaid.

Intervention, crisis lines, psychological and drug therapies are the tools the VA uses today.

But a Hoffman Estates doctor thinks he has a better solution.

Eugene Lipov, a Hoffman Estates anesthesiologist, has treated more than 100 patients with PTSD through a procedure called stellate ganglion block, according to a recent story by staff writer Jessica Cilella.

To treat his patients, he injects a medication often used in epidurals during childbirth into a bundle of nerves in the neck called the stellate ganglion. Applying the anesthetic, he claims, reverses brain changes that are occurring because of PTSD.

He adds that the results have been largely positive for his patients -- men and women who have gone through a variety of traumatic events, including war or sexual assault.

A significant difference in Lipov's approach, he says, is that he treats PTSD as a biological problem rather than a mental disorder, which removes the stigma of mental illness from the equation. More people, he said, will get a broken leg repaired than seek psychological help. And they'll seek help sooner.

Often, those suffering PTSD either seek help too late or don't seek it at all.

Lipov's research has been published, and the criticism it's received is that he hasn't done clinical trials.

He has sought government funding for a PTSD care institute but thus far has been denied.

If indeed Lipov's treatment could potentially save the lives of many thousands of people with PTSD, rather than the hundreds he could potentially help out of Hoffman Estates, this idea warrants further study and real clinical trials, and we urge the Department of Defense to strongly consider it.

The prospect of helping those who've already given so much of themselves for the greater good is the only human thing to do.

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