How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Can Benefit Your Healing Journey

How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Can Benefit Your Healing Journey
By stella
19th Jul 2022

The landscape of mental healthcare treatment is vast. Pharmaceutical drugs, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), yoga, talk therapy…. The list goes on. 

The idea of researching available treatments can be daunting. And deciding where to start your healing journey – or what to add to it – takes time and serious consideration. That’s where Stella comes in. 

In this article, we explain what Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is, which conditions it can treat, and how it can fit into your healing journey. 

The History of Ketamine 

How It Started

In 1966, researchers published the first study about using ketamine as an anesthetic, noting that it provides “excellent analgesia” (or inability to feel pain). By 1970, the FDA approved the use of ketamine as an anesthetic. And in 1985, the World Health Organization added ketamine to its Essentials Medicines list. 

Researchers Find a New Use For Ketamine

In the early 1990s, researchers at Yale noted that when treated with pediatric anesthetic ketamine, chronically depressed patients experience “almost immediate – if transitory – relief from [their] symptoms.” This observation sparked researchers’ curiosity about ketamine’s potential to help the tens of millions of people who struggle with depression and other mental health conditions, like anxiety and PTSD. 

In a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Psychology, researchers celebrated ketamine as “one of the most important breakthroughs in antidepressant treatment in decades.” 

Multiple randomized clinical studies find that ketamine infusions can effectively treat major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression with a success rate as high as 80%. Patients with suicidal thoughts respond particularly well to ketamine – over 80% report that their suicidal thoughts stop completely after the first infusion. 

How Ketamine Infusion Therapy Works 

Ketamine can enter the body in a few ways: intravenously, intramuscularly, intranasally, sublingually (under the tongue), or orally (by mouth). Stella only administers ketamine intravenously, which is the most common method. 

The amount of ketamine used in Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is much lower than what anesthesiologists administer before surgery. 

How Does Ketamine Affect the Brain? 

Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist that interacts with some of the brain’s neurotransmitters. When ketamine binds to those receptors, it increases the amount of glutamate between neurons. Glutamate then activates connections in the AMPA receptor. When NMDA receptors are blocked and AMPA receptors are activated, synaptogenesis occurs. Synaptogenesis is the process of neurons communicating with each other along new pathways, which can affect mood, thought patterns, and cognition. 

Ketamine causes nerve growth throughout the brain which can lead to long-lasting symptom improvement, even after the drug is no longer in your system.

What Is the Infusion Session Like? 

At the beginning, you might not notice any changes. As the session progresses, you may feel lighter or like you’re floating. Some patients describe this sensation as “a weight being lifted” off their shoulders. Other patients experience a dream-like state or calmness. It’s also possible to have visions of colors and shapes. These types of out-of-body experiences are why ketamine is sometimes categorized as a psychedelic drug. 

Generally, 15 minutes after completing the infusion, patients start to regain their senses and their thinking returns to normal. 

How Long Does It Last? 

The positive effects of a single ketamine infusion can last for up to two weeks. After a series of six infusions, many Stella patients are symptom-free for several months or longer. 

The Benefits of Ketamine Infusion Therapy

It’s Fast-Acting 

Ketamine caused a paradigm shift in the treatment of major depressive disorder and treatment-resistant depression. Many pharmaceutical drugs take weeks to work – if they work at all – whereas ketamine can work within hours of the first infusion. For some patients, it takes multiple infusions to experience relief. In either case, Ketamine Infusion Therapy often yields a successful result before traditional treatments – think pharmaceutical drugs or talk therapy – do. 

This is incredibly encouraging because when someone is struggling with depression, they may benefit from a treatment with a fast positive response. For this reason, ketamine can be an extremely valuable tool in preventing suicide and alleviating major depressive disorder. 

It’s Safe 

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella is administered by highly-trained medical personnel who work under the direction of a Board Certified physician. They deliver the ketamine intravenously very slowly over 45 minutes. During the session, medical personnel will closely monitor your vital signs and adjust the dose as necessary. They are also prepared to manage unpleasant side effects like nausea. 

There Are Minimal Side Effects  

Side effects of Ketamine Infusion Therapy include mild drowsiness, nausea, and increased blood pressure, and they usually only last an hour or two. 

Less common side effects include vivid dreams and agitation. These can be controlled by adjusting the dose during the infusion session. 

There is no evidence that ketamine is habit-forming or addictive when administered intravenously at low doses and frequencies to treat depression. In fact, research suggests that ketamine can help people overcome addictions. 

Please note that a history of substance-use issues will not exclude you from participating in Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella. However, it is important to disclose this information to our Care Team before treatment. 

It’s Customized To You

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella includes six infusion sessions. To maximize the positive effects of treatment, patients typically space their infusions out over a two-to three-week period. 

The total number of infusions and need for maintenance infusions varies from person to person. Stella’s Care Team will work with you to create a plan that’s practical and most likely to yield a successful result. 

Most of Stella’s treatment locations let you bring your own music so you can set the tone of your infusion sessions. Many locations also allow a family member or friend to accompany you so you feel comfortable and supported during treatment.

Adding Ketamine Infusion Therapy To Your Existing Care Plan

To help you achieve the best possible outcome, Stella combines cutting-edge biological and psychological interventions. 

Our team understands that there are many paths to healing. Ketamine Infusion Therapy can compliment the work you’re already doing and it’s a great first step. 

The Stellate Ganglion Block 

Treatment by Stella is based on the symptoms that you self-report in our short quiz. Our quiz gauges the post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/ or depressive symptoms you may be experiencing. Our Care Team will determine if you might benefit from the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), Ketamine Infusion Therapy, or a combination of the two. 

People with moderate PTS and moderate depressive symptoms may be good candidates for both SGB and Ketamine Infusion Therapy. Our Care Team is prepared to discuss your treatment options with you and will provide the information you need to make an informed decision. 

A month and a half after one of our patients had SGB and five ketamine infusions, they said that they felt like they got their life back: 

“These treatments allowed me to see that my trauma and the abuses were nothing but mere memories. Those fleeting things. Mere floaties, as opposed to hard truths about life and myself. I am able to connect to myself in a way that is incredibly healing! I am alive and healing at incredible speed!”

Other Therapies and Treatments

Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella can accelerate the impact of other therapies and treatments, such as talk therapy, pharmaceutical drugs, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and more. Many of our patients find that after their infusion sessions they can more easily incorporate takeaways from therapy because they are less focused on their symptoms. 

One of our patients reflected on the progress they made after Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella: 

“I got six infusions in seven days. The infusions had a huge impact on my trauma and the way my brain was holding on to the moments in my past. The traumatic events were as old as 30 years. The infusions made me feel as if I was the only thing that exists on earth, which is extremely peaceful. My rumination on past events went away, and I was extremely calm and happy. During some of the infusions I felt as if I was dying. The feeling of dying helped me kill the pain that was inside, rather than me wanting to commit suicide. I battled with suicidal ideations for over 30 years with over 20 years of psychological therapy. I made more progress during one infusion than I had in 20 years of therapy and 90 days in inpatient rehabilitation. Ketamine infusions would have given me my childhood and adulthood back, rather than living with a horror film inside of me.”

What Does Ketamine Infusion Therapy Cost? 

Our package of six ketamine infusions starts at $3,899. Please note that the price of Ketamine Infusion Therapy by Stella varies by location.

Although ketamine can be legally prescribed and administered to treat mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, or PTSD, ketamine infusions are not currently covered by healthcare insurance companies for this use. Today, ketamine is only covered by insurance as an anesthetic. 

To help make Ketamine Infusion Therapy accessible, Stella accepts payment through HSA and FSA accounts. We also offer two financing options: a 24-month plan through CareCredit and an in-house plan for those who qualify. 

If you want to learn why Ketamine Infusion Therapy isn’t covered by insurance and how we set our prices, read Stella’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon’s article on Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency. 

Connect With Stella’s Care Team 

Stella has helped thousands of people find lasting relief from symptoms related to depression, anxiety, PTSD, and stress. To determine if you’re a good fit for Treatment by Stella, start by taking our brief quiz. You can also reach our Care Team at 312-448-6502 or care@stellacenter.com.

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Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come

Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB): What To Expect & What’s To Come
By stella
06th Jul 2022

Many people have questions about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB). What’s the procedure like? How do you qualify? How do you feel after?

In this blog post, we’ll walk you through Treatment by Stella so you know what to expect before, during, and after SGB.

Qualifying for SGB

We will never ask you to tell your story or justify your trauma to qualify for treatment. 

Treatment by Stella is based on the severity of each person’s symptoms of depression, anxiety, and emotional trauma. It’s common for trauma survivors to feel unworthy of receiving care, these algorithmic-based tests help validate one’s experiences due to their unbiased nature. 

For those who qualify for treatment, the journey to relief begins. 

Before Treatment

For many of our patients, waiting to receive SGB is more difficult than the actual procedure. 

Stella isn’t always the first stop on our patients’ healing journeys. It’s common for trauma survivors to try multiple treatments – like prescription medications, talk therapy, or deep breathing exercises. While every time-tested, research-backed treatment has its merits, none of them can guarantee 100 percent relief. When a treatment doesn’t work, it can feel personal. And that may cause us to lose trust in the healthcare system. 

It’s completely normal to be skeptical or feel hopeless about the possibility of feeling good again. Memories of failed treatments can trigger anxiety and hesitation about SGB and worrying can keep us up at night. Our days may be interrupted by intrusive thoughts like:

What if SGB doesn’t work?
What if I can’t get my heart rate down?
What if my vitamins actually had turmeric in them?
I stopped taking my blood thinners, right?
I can’t wait any longer to feel better. 
Will SGB change who I am?

Here are four ways to help ease your mind and cope with this type of thinking before treatment.

Set expectations:

Some feel nervous talking to their friends, family, and care providers following SGB as they navigate the changes in their bodies in real-time. Some feel “pressure” to show positive results so they don’t let their loved ones down. These are common reactions and may even be tied to trauma responses.

Setting expectations with our support circle beforehand can help alleviate these types of reactions after treatment. 

  • Ask for some “quiet time” to yourself immediately after treatment to allow yourself to “unplug” and focus on resting.
  • Explain that you will share a quick update immediately after your SGB procedure followed by more details the next day.
  • Set boundaries for what types of language you want your support system to use. Many prefer to be asked “How are you feeling right now?” instead of triggering language like “Did it work?”

Sharing this 7 Ways To Take Care of Yourself or Others Before and After SGB resource with our support team can allow for them to look back on this document to help answer any questions they may have.

Review Stella’s treatment documentation:

Once treatment is scheduled, Stella will send you an email with the information you need to prepare for treatment, including: 

  • The location (address, pictures of the facility, parking details, how to check in, etc.)
  • Your doctor (their name, picture, medical training, current Board Certifications, etc.)
  • The procedure (what to wear, type of image-guidance used, companion policies, etc.)

Talk to your mental health care provider:

Many trauma-informed therapists are familiar with SGB, and we recommend discussing your upcoming treatment plan with them. If you do not have a mental healthcare provider, we may be able to refer you to one in our network. 

Talk to the Stella team:

If nervousness or anxiety arises on treatment day, please know that you’re in a safe space and you can openly ask questions or communicate your worries to the team on site. Ask your Stella doctor to walk you through the treatment again, step by step. 

Following your treatment

Whether one chooses to stay awake or use twilight sedation, many people experience similar outcomes immediately after treatment. Here are a few of the most common responses:

Sudden urge to cry

Most people report a rush of emotions. We recommend letting out the emotions. This is extremely common and healthy. Your Stella MD partner is familiar with this response and will respect your time and space through this release.

Calmness

While most have difficulty articulating what “calmness” feels like, they know it’s the feeling they are experiencing. We’ll touch on this more shortly.

Lightness

SGB can make people feel like a weight has been lifted off their chest or shoulders. This may make them feel like they can breathe more deeply and in turn feel more rested and relaxed than they’re used to. 

Tiredness

It’s normal to feel tired after a medical procedure. We recommend that our patients take a long nap after they leave get home. Sleep allows the body to heal and feel calm. Many patients find it helpful to turn off their cell phones while resting. 

The Following Days

Be patient with yourself in the days following treatment and revisit the expectations you set for yourself and your loved ones. Depending on how long one’s body has been stuck in fight-or-flight mode, the benefits may be glaring, hard to describe, or difficult to spot. 

Outside of what’s covered within the PCL 5 PTSD symptom tracker, many of the benefits experienced fall under the category of “calmness” and “peacefulness.” 

Calmness | ˈkämnəs,ˈkälmnəs:

the state or quality of being free from agitation or strong emotion.

This comes to life in many forms following treatment:

  • Having a clear head
  • Mind being quiet 
  • Time feels slower 
  • Acting less rushed
  • Feeling comfortable

Over 83 percent of Stella Patients experience lasting relief after one SGB procedure. And, 43 percent of patients schedule two treatments based on the severity of their symptoms.

The Stella Standard of Care was created to meet your needs before, during, and after treatment. 

There are patients that do not receive relief after their first treatment or may not receive as much relief as they were hoping for. In rare cases, some may experience an inability to control emotions, increased anxiety or panic attacks, or worsened sleep. If a second treatment, typically on the left side, is not already a part of the care plan, it will be recommended to those who experience these symptoms.

While the majority of people find relief after they receive the second treatment, Stella will work directly with 10-20 percent who did not experience any benefits from SGB and help navigate them on additional treatment options. 

The Next 14 – 30 Days

You may not notice changes in your symptoms at first but those close to you might observe changes in your behavior. Ask a trusted family member or friend to take inventory of how you’ve changed and have them share their observations with you. This exercise is eye-opening for many Stella patients. You may need to encounter stressful situations to realize that your response to them is different. 

When the body is no longer stuck in fight-or-flight mode, symptoms dissipate, which can positively impact how we move through daily tasks. Many people note that they:

  • Find driving is less stressful
  • See more clearly – colors appear brighter and their vision is sharper
  • Can more easily handle social situations or go out in public
  • Feel more sociable
  • Experience less physical pain
  • Can actively listen and more thoughtfully engage in conversations 
  • Interested in picking up old (or new) hobbies
  • Are a more confident parent and/or partner
  • Are excited about future planning

SGB gives people the ability to feel in a way that they did not think was possible. 

“The final piece to the puzzle. Yes, I needed therapy, meditation & medication, but those things didn’t get me all the way to where I needed to be. It’s like my fight or flight mechanism was stuck in the ‘on’ position and nothing could calm it down. The Stella Center SGB shot did. I’m not constantly triggered or on edge anymore. I can finally enjoy the new perspective and positive outlook that I gained from therapy. Life has its ups & downs but they’re manageable now. Life is brand new.”

Read more of Stella’s anonymous reviews in real-time to hear more about how people are experiencing life after treatment.

How Long Does SGB Last?

The lasting impact of SGB varies from individual to individual. In a study where participants were surveyed 3-6 months after treatment, 70 percent still reported a successful outcome. Many people find lasting results for years after treatment.

On average, 8 to 12 percent of Stella patients return for additional SGB treatment. Many have incorporated ongoing SGB treatments into their mental health care plan based on personal lifestyle, stressors, new traumas and/or response to treatment.

While all of the benefits of SGB treatments are still unknown, Stella sees an increasing number of patients reporting after receiving SGB, they have:

  • Improved handwriting
  • Reduced their use of or stopped taking prescription medications
  • Less PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms
  • More memories from childhood
  • Less face and neck flushing
  • Decreased gag reflex

SGB is not a “cure” for PTSD or emotional trauma symptoms. We believe that the formula for lasting relief is a combination of biological and psychological interventions. 

What’s To Come for SGB

While SGB may seem new to the public, the medical industry has been exploring its capabilities since 1920. SGB has been shown to treat migraines and help women find relief from hot flashes and night sweats. More studies are underway to show its effectiveness for treating vertigo, bell’s palsy and much more.

Earlier this year, Stella Provider Dr. Luke D. Liu published a case study explaining how SGB successfully reduced long COVID symptoms. The result of this study led to Stella and RTHM partnering to provide RTHM’s Long COVID patients with access to Stella’s SGB treatment.

A new clinical trial sponsored by NYU Langone Health is leveraging Dr. Lipov’s modified SGB method, the Dual Sympathetic Reset, and Stella’s New York Provider to test SGB’s efficacy on PTSD symptoms through the use of brain scans. Researchers hope will help destigmatize PTSD as an illness and add to the public’s understanding of SGB as a potential treatment. 

Primary care and functional medicine practices, like Cornerstone, are now offering SGB to their patients through Stella’s Certified MD network.

There are many findings that remain unexplored, like SGB’s impact on Tinnitus or its positive impact on Roman/Ward syndrome.

The possibilities around SGB are endless. We won’t stop championing this treatment and providing you with the care you deserve.  

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Stella and RTHM Partner to Treat Long COVID Symptoms

Stella and RTHM Partner to Treat Long COVID Symptoms
By stella
08th Jun 2022

We are excited to announce the partnership between Stella and RTHM, a research clinic treating complex and post-infectious illnesses, to provide RTHM’s Long COVID patients access to Stella’s Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) treatment

Changes in sympathetic nervous system function have been documented in those diagnosed with Long COVID. SGB has helped return the sympathetic nervous system to a healthier state after a biological trigger alters its function. The Stellate Ganglion Block treatment offers promising results and is administered by our many board-certified anesthesiologists trained by Stella. 

The path forward for SGB treating Long COVID

Recently, our partners published a case study in the Journal of Neuroimmunology that showed how SGB treatment reduced symptoms of Long COVID.

 “Stella’s SGB is one of the options within our individualized treatment plans, but it’s an important one,” says RTHM’s co-founder, Dr. Jennifer Curtin. “The collaboration between RTHM and Stella provides our patients with a unique and potentially helpful treatment.”

Long COVID affects up to 30% of those who have contracted COVID-19. Yet few clinicians have the background in post-viral disease or can access all the tools required to treat these challenging conditions. RTHM is unpacking the knowledge gained from other, often post-viral diseases like ME/CFS and leveraging that wisdom for those suffering with Long COVID. 

“It’s clear that Stella and RTHM will both continue to innovate like lives depend on it— because they do,” said Michael Gershenzon, Stella’s Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer.

RTHM believes in the best outcome

RTHM will collect a wealth of longitudinal biomarker and questionnaire data on patients undergoing SGB, which could help support the efficacy of SGBs in people with Long COVID and potentially other chronic complex diseases.

“Where others see Long COVID as ‘uncharted waters’,” Dr. Curtin says, “we already have a partial map from navigating other post-viral diseases.”

RTHM’s treatment and diagnostic algorithm created by co-founder Dr. Curtin will help clinicians make the best treatment and diagnostic decisions for patients – including Stella’s SGB methodology. RTHM will identify patients that may find relief from SGB and facilitate care with Stella Certified MDs. RTHM will be using apps and biological and biometric data gleaned from wearable devices, which could help support the efficacy of SGBs in people with Long COVID.

“RTHM and Stella have a shared mission: ending needless suffering,” he added.  “The number of people affected by Long COVID represents a major health crisis. Knowing that Stella’s treatment might be able to help an entirely new population is incredible.”

Looking toward a hopeful tomorrow

The only data regarding SGB’s effects on Long COVID are investigative case studies, however, its application in treating Long COVID is novel but promising. And as cases of Long COVID emerge, it’s essential to have attractive therapeutic modalities like SGB and the therapies at RTHM for people to turn to when looking for the appropriate care. 

If you would like to learn more about about RTHM’s Long COVID treatments, visit https://rthm.com/, or to learn more about Long COVID and SGB, please read Stella Certified Doctor Dr. Luke D. Liu’s case study on SGB for Long COVID.

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Coffee or Die: Shot In The Neck Offers Some Relief to PTSD Veterans

Coffee or Die: Shot In The Neck Offers Some Relief to PTSD Veterans
By stella
01st Jun 2022

Michael Ergo struggled with post-traumatic stress for more than a decade following that deployment to Iraq in 2005 with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. But he says he finally found peace last year through a treatment known as stellate ganglion block, or SGB.

While SGB has been used to treat pain for about a century, its use for treating post-traumatic stress is still relatively novel.

After about half an hour of observation after receiving SGB, Ergo was free to leave. He said he noticed the effects right away. He likens the feeling to the immediate aftermath of a good open-water swim in the Pacific Ocean — he felt calm and refreshed.

He half expected that feeling to go away, but a year later, he says he hasn’t experienced a single panic attack since.

“It wasn’t like I was totally blasé,” he said. “I’ll feel the appropriate amount of fear when a situation isn’t right or I need to act immediately. I just don’t sweat the things I used to sweat.”

Researchers hope a newly approved study at New York University will increase understanding of the treatment and help more patients like Ergo find relief.

“Mental health support, familial support, community support are really important around any intervention, including SGB,” Michael Gershenzon said.

While both Ergo and Stella Co Founder and Chief Strategy Officer Michael Gershenzon hope the study will ultimately make it easier for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder to try SGB, we emphasized that the treatment shouldn’t be seen as a silver bullet or one-and-done deal.

“This is the closest thing we have to a magic pill,” Ergo said. “But you have to do the supportive therapy with it afterwards to make the changes in your life.”

Read the full article on Coffee or Die

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“Your Trauma is Valid” Campaign Aims to Challenge How Society Justifies Personal Emotional Traumas

“Your Trauma is Valid” Campaign Aims to Challenge How Society Justifies Personal Emotional Traumas
By stella
17th May 2022

The national ad campaign launched during Mental Health Awareness Month and spans into PTSD Awareness Month (June) to draw attention to the excuses we tell ourselves to invalidate our emotional traumas. This campaign hopes to destigmatize PTSD and the myriad of life-altering symptoms of complex emotional traumas that go unchecked.

Today, Stella has kicked off a nationwide trauma-informed marketing campaign to destigmatize traumas called Your Trauma Is Valid.

Across the country, billboard placements can be found in various locations which each highlight different emotional traumas experienced by the area’s demographics. By tapping into cultural insights around first-hand accounts to create the campaign, we hope to push forward validation and provoke those who need help to seek it. 

Often, those who have experienced traumatic events have compounded unhealed traumas, but often invalidate their emotions and biological reactions because their history does not fit into pop culture’s accepted definition of PTSD. 

Those who are experiencing symptoms following trauma continue to feel unworthy of the title.  Even Wikipedia’s list of causes and symptoms reflect this outdated thinking by ignoring the mention of most modern day traumas and their common side effects like insomnia, severe anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts, and suicidal ideation.

This trauma-informed marketing campaign pushes back against the stigmas and excuses accepted by popular culture that stops people affected by a lifetime or an episode of traumatic event(s) from exploring the proper mental health treatments that would be right for them.

“This campaign is important because there is a crucial need to destigmatize PTSD, especially for those around us who have been taught to justify their own traumas,” said Matthew Erley, Chief Growth Officer at Stella. “The subject of emotional trauma is uncomfortable and can be scary for everyone at some point in life, we really wanted to challenge people’s own perspectives of how they justify daily trauma.”

Trauma’s lasting impact

The first billboard is in Dallas, Texas, and features a photo of a young child paired with the headline, “It was a long time ago.” Texas was chosen due to the state with the most unique victims of child abuse in the United States in 2020

study released earlier this year by Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Psychologist, ​​Dr. Shauna Springer, and other trauma experts, they were able conclude that Stella’s most popular treatment, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), is an effective-precision treatment for trauma symptoms no matter ones gender, trauma type, PTS-related drug use, history of suicide attempts, or age.

“Trauma doesn’t have a statue of limitations.” Says Chief Psychology Officer, Dr Springer. “It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened, you can heal at any age.”

Secondary PTSD and it’s impact on families

Around the corner at the Dallas Ft. Worth airport, known for its military presence, a billboard features a family hugging with the headline, “I wasn’t the one who went to war”. This billboard taps into Secondary PTSD in hopes of showing families of active duty members and veterans that their trauma is just as valid.

First Responders and ongoing traumas

In Weehawken, New Jersey, a billboard can be found on the commute into Manhattan at the mouth of the Lincoln Tunnel. The headline reads, “It’s a part of my job” and features a medical worker. Hospitals in and around the area were hit the hardest when the COVID-19 pandemic first started and first responder trauma continues to be a global crisis. The number of physician suicides is more than twice that of the general population at 12.3 per 100,000.

Across the country at the home of The Dixie Fire in Northern California, the largest blaze of 2021, a similar message of validation for firefighters’ trauma is being shared. First responders may face new traumas every day and Stella is acknowledging that no one should feel the need to say excuses out loud to justify those traumas.

“This campaign was personal.” Said Kristin “KB” Busk, Head of Content. “I’ve made up a lot of excuses over my lifetime and it took me working in the mental health space to realize my “truths” and actions aren’t personality quirks, they’re behavioral responses to untreated trauma.”

This campaign will feature additional digital ads that highlight modern-day traumas that have been previously discredited due to stigmas; like adoption, fertility issues, loss of a job and divorce.

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Let’s Talk About How We Talk About Trauma

Let’s Talk About How We Talk About Trauma
By stella
20th Apr 2022

The world of mental health can be extraordinarily confusing and challenging to navigate. When it comes to trauma, it becomes even more difficult.

What is trauma and how do we know if we’ve experienced it? What do the symptoms look like and how does one find the proper treatment? The language being used is new to most of us and there is a lot to grasp. Most of the time, many of us are left with more questions than answers. The lack of education can make things muddled, and we may not fully understand all the talk surrounding trauma.

So basically, where does one begin? 

Sometimes, the best way to understand trauma is to just dive into the conversation. There is no playbook, or one size fits all approach to the terminology used but seeing or hearing these words can help us recognize where we may need to learn more. Some words and phrases may hold more weight than others, especially when talking about recovery.

As the awareness grows, so must the understanding of the language. Stella is here to help guide you through your following conversation about trauma. 

Defining Trauma

It’s no surprise that “trauma” comes up a lot in our conversations. It has entered the lexicon of everyday discussions everywhere. We often hear people use “that’s traumatizing” when discussing things that many would not describe as traumatizing in current culture. But the word has many different shapes, sizes, and variations that it becomes necessary to explain, like physical vs emotional traumas. In one of our previous blogs about trauma response, we address the family tree of trauma. There are three different types: acute, chronic, and complex – each with its own definition. 

People may also often use the word to refer to their unique traumatic experiences. Examples include accidents, the death of a loved one, disasters, bullying, sexual assault, abuse, racism, violence, poverty, gaslighting, sexism, toxic relationships, and COVID-19. 

Let’s take a look at the three different types of trauma humans experience:

Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience such as an accident, rape, or natural disaster. Reactions such as shock and denial are typical.

Physical trauma is a serious injury to the body. The two main types of physical trauma are blunt force trauma and penetrating trauma.

Emotional trauma results from events or experiences that leave us feeling profoundly unsafe and often helpless.

What’s the Difference Between Trauma Symptoms and a Trauma Response?

Experiencing trauma and post-traumatic stress can lead to changes in physical and emotional states and sometimes may not appear for years leading to an unknown or untreated diagnosis. Some of the most common language you will see is about trauma symptoms and the response we have to the traumas themselves. 

Trauma symptoms can be flashbacks, nightmares, trouble sleeping, addiction, severe anxiety or depression, and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Symptoms can vary over time or vary from person to person. You can read more about trauma symptoms here.

Trauma Response is the unconscious response style we can develop in the wake of untreated trauma that shifts our previous way of relating to others or our situations. 

Trauma can change our personalities. Its response patterns reflect what trauma has taught us and how we apply these lessons to increase our feeling of being safe. However, trauma also changes our sense of identity and our relationships over time and may themselves cause additional loss and further trauma in our lives. 

What’s The Difference Between PTSD, PTS, and PTSI?

Stella is leading the way in innovative and effective treatments for post-traumatic stress. To do that, we needed to approach post-traumatic stress in a few different ways. Stella approaches post-traumatic stress as an injury to the brain rather than a disorder. 

The most commonly used term is PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, which is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.

PTS or post-traumatic stress is used in the transition when moving away from the use of PTSD and to PTSI. 

PTSI, or post-traumatic stress injury, refers to the same set of symptoms as PTSD. However, while PTSD refers to a psychiatric disorder, the PTSI definition refers to a biological injury. Experts believe that dropping the D will help reduce the stigmas around PTSD and encourage those in need of treatment to seek out help.

Defining Treatment

PTSD is most commonly treated with various types of psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, and biological interventions. At Stella, we believe that the most successful outcomes are when multiple modalities work together to treat the cause and symptoms of each individual’s emotional trauma.

Let’s explore the differences between treatments.

Psychotherapies, which are also referred to as psychological therapy or talk therapy, are sessions between a patient and mental health professionals with the aim to improve an individual’s well-being and mental health. Most commonly for trauma symptoms, sessions focus on problem-solving and exploring the why behind our responses, behaviors, beliefs, emotions, and so on.

The use of pharmaceutical drugs for trauma treatment is referred to as Pharmacotherapies. Prescriptions for Antidepressants of the SSRI or SNRI type are currently the first-line medications used for PTSD.

Biological Interventions are a form of treatment that targets the symptoms of biological injury caused by emotionally traumatic or acutely stressful experience(s). Biological interventions attempt to restore healthy physiological functioning through a focus on body systems such as nerve transmission processes, neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, and so on. 

Biological treatments for PTSD involve treating the physical source of the symptoms as an attempt to restore healthy physiological function through precision medicine approaches focused on body systems, like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB).

SGB is a promising treatment option for trauma symptoms, and Stella is leading the charge. Though the innovative treatment may be relatively new for some, the procedure itself has been around for a century. However, it wasn’t until the last two decades that Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Lipov, discovered its impact on those experiencing PTS.

What is Stellate Ganglion Block?

The Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is a biological intervention that targets the sympathetic nervous system to treat the physical source of PTSD symptoms through an injection of local anesthetic into a bundle of nerves in the neck connected to the sympathetic nervous system that helps restore normal biological function through precision medicine.

What’s the difference between SGB for pain and SGB for PTSD?

Before it was discovered that SGB could be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress, it was found a century ago that it may relieve pain and perhaps determine the source of your pain. Blocking of the nerves interrupts the positive feedback circuit and decreases persistent pain. Doctors may often recommend a series of these blocks a couple of weeks apart which may help give you longer-term relief. And many doctors will often use medications with steroids.

In 2006, Dr. Lipov found that SGB was an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. When the local anesthetic injections into a bundle of nerves in the neck, it can eliminate the nerve growth causing the PTS and efficiently relieve even the most severe trauma symptoms.

When pairing biological interventions with psychological interventions, the result can be life-changing.

Stella founders Dr. Eugene Lipov and Dr. Shauna Springer recently published a study with other trauma experts that indicates that the SGB is an effective treatment for trauma symptoms regardless of gender, trauma type, PTSD-related medication use, or history of suicide attempt, or age.6 

What makes Stella’s SGB treatment different from others?

Widely considered the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) pioneer for PTSD, Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, is a Board Certified anesthesiologist and pain, management physician. Fifteen years ago, he discovered that SGB could “reset” the nervous system to its pre-trauma state.

​​SGB was originally developed as a single injection.

​​After researching and testing many ways of administering SGB for PTSD treatment, Dr. Lipov found that two injections – known as the Dual Sympathetic Reset (DSR) – yield the best results. The injections are given back to back into the C6 and C4 through the use of image guidance technologies.

​​Each Stella Certified MD receives treatment guidance and recommendations by Dr. Lipov in Stella’s proprietary Duel Sympathetic Reset methodology. We also require that each doctor meet the Stella Standard of Care and remain in good standing based on monthly outcome audits.

As the Community Grows

The dialogue around trauma will continue to grow, and organizations like Stella are prepared to adapt as quickly and effectively as possible. The most important thing, keep the conversation going. Talking about trauma is not the same as treating it, but it can lead those experiencing it, knowingly or unknowingly, to the care they deserve. Beginning with the basic knowledge, we can build a trauma-informed community guided towards treatment options like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) by Stella.

Call (866) 964-3485 to learn more or schedule your procedure with a member of our Patient Care Team.

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Trauma is Complicated but Can Relief be as Simple as an Injection?

Trauma is Complicated but Can Relief be as Simple as an Injection?
By stella
04th Apr 2022

Post-traumatic stress is a prevalent and debilitating condition that doesn’t discriminate against anyone. According to the National Center for PTSD, about 6 of every 10 men (or 60%) and 5 of every 10 women (or 50%) experience at least one trauma in their lives. Regardless of their age, race, gender, and religion, anyone can experience post-traumatic stress. 

PTSD is a mental health condition that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault (1).

At Stella, we replaced “Disorder” with “Injury. “Disorder” connotes a sense of permanence which is misleading because PTS is treatable. Disorder can also lead to the stigma that can prevent those who need help from asking for it. We speak more about this in our post, “What is PTSD?”

The Family Tree of Trauma

PTSI can be categorized under several main types of trauma.

  • Acute trauma: A single stressful or dangerous event.
  • Chronic trauma: Repeated and prolonged exposure to highly stressful events. 
  • Complex trauma: Results from exposure to multiple traumatic events.

PTSI can come after experiencing events like war, sexual assault, adoption, and domestic abuse to name only a few.  It encompasses many different mental health conditions, like suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. But because of the stigmas surrounding PTSI, over a quarter of the American population believe it is untreatable.

Current treatments that exist for people experiencing trauma symptoms can be classified as pharmacological therapies or psychotherapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), cognitive processing therapy (CPT), prolonged exposure, hypnotherapy, and others. Success rates for singular therapies remain inconsistent and, or many, the formula for lasting relief combines biological and psychological interventions. Because of this, clinicians are exploring new options.

The Innovative Options

A study released earlier this year by Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Psychologist, ​​Dr. Shauna Springer, and other trauma experts concluded the Stellate Ganglion Block is an effective treatment for PTSI symptoms no matter their gender, trauma type, PTS-related drug use, history of suicide attempts, or age.

Out of the 327 patients were included in the final statistical analysis, an overwhelming majority of them experienced relief in PTSI symptoms after the Stellate Ganglion Block treatment. The patient population included 132 civilian females, 13 military females, 85 civilian males, and 97 military males. 

The Results

Dr. Lipov identified 21 types of self-reported trauma leading to PTSI for the individuals involved. Among the 21 types of reported trauma, 19 types reached statistical significance.

The PCL was used, which is a self-report assessment that determines symptoms, screens, and monitors changes before, during, and after PTSI treatment. There was an average decrease in PCL score was 28.59 and 29.2, respectively. The men and women who had a military background had a significantly greater reduction in PCL score than civilians.

Overall, the study concluded that there was a statistically significant improvement in PTSI symptoms independent of the causative trauma type, gender, age greater than 20, previous suicide attempts, or use of prescription medications for PTSI.

While people experience symptoms caused by emotional trauma differently, we all have one thing in common – we are looking for relief. The Stellate Ganglion Block treatment appears to hold promise for both women and men, with both military and non-military traumas.

Post-traumatic stress can be treated as an injury no matter the complexity of the trauma.

Is the Stellate Ganglion Block Right for You?

The Stellate Ganglion Block is a fast, effective, and research-back treatment and when combined with talk therapy, and other mental health solutions recommended by your providers, can be the new standard of care. Stella simplifies the healing journey. Our PMHNP experts will review symptoms and medical histories to determine if the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) is the right treatment plan. More than 80% of Stella patients find relief from their PTSI symptoms. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us directly by calling 1-866-497-9248.

  1. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/understand/common/common_adults.asp

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Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency: A Statement From Our Co-Founder

Cost, Care, and the Need for Transparency: A Statement From Our Co-Founder
By stella
28th Mar 2022

This article is written by Stella Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Michael Gershenzon. 

As the Co-Founder of Stella, I’ve got something to say.

The team at Stella is comprised of over 50 full-time employees who come from varying walks of life. Each employee has a unique background and personal story that led us all to where we all are today. They could be doing just about anything with their careers – working at Fortune 100 companies, bolstering their resumes and enjoying luxurious company perks.

But they chose Stella.

They chose a risky, small start-up born during the chaos of COVID-19 attempting to bring to market the first new FDA-approved standards of care for mental trauma sufferers in over 2 decades.

And Stella chose them, along with everyone else who would come under our care. 

The people at Stella are grappling with a conundrum that our clients are also feeling. We’re all asking ourselves:

“Why are these treatments so expensive and why won’t insurance help?”  

Myself, our C-suite and our board have been trying to crack this since inception. As the Co-Founder, I’m going to attempt to very directly answer these “why” questions below.  

The responses are probably unsatisfactory… but true.

Health Runs Through Insurance Companies (and The Government)

For better or worse, the US healthcare system revolves around health insurance companies which serve as the arbiters of what care you can receive (and don’t receive).  At the risk of oversimplifying, we need three ingredients for a treatment to be adopted by insurance:

  • A government agency (i.e. the FDA) signing off the treatment is safe and effective
  • Proof the treatment saves the insurance company money. In many cases this is by offsetting an existing cost elsewhere. The cost of trauma, depression and anxiety are enormous, however they are often indirect (lost productivity, absenteeism, etc..) as opposed to an existing direct insurance cost.
  • A bureaucratic process that entails pitching and contracting with each insurance company to convince them to include this as a benefit for their members

The median cost of FDA approval for a new drug is $19 million.  The process from pre-clinical testing to FDA approval takes an average of 12 years for a drug and 7 for a medical device.  While that time passes, people suffer and in some cases die.

Importantly, the absence of FDA approval or insurance coverage does NOT mean a treatment is not effective. There are roughly 10,000 approved therapeutics for roughly 10,000 individual diseases but once a drug is approved for one condition its often not approved for others where it can be beneficial. A few common examples include:

  • LASIK for Vision Correction (FDA approved but not covered by insurance)
  • Aspirin for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention (not FDA approved for that indication)

Mental Health (Let Alone Interventional Mental Health) Is Way Behind

Despite the jaw dropping impact to the US economy ($210+ billion from depression absenteeism alone, according to the APA), immeasurable personal and familial suffering, and very measurable loss of life (death by suicide is the 10th leading cause of death, according to the CDC), mental health is decades behind other healthcare fields in terms of medical innovation and even willingness to acknowledge the problem. 

As humans, our most important organ, the brain, is one of the least understood. The complexity of the brain and relative astronomical cost of brainscan technology, like fMRI, have put research and innovation in this space on the backburner.

You can see physical symptoms of disease.  You can see a broken bone.  You can see cancer. You can’t readily see mental trauma without a brain scan (see point about its uneconomical cost above).

It’s no wonder why society generally views mental afflictions as “something just in your head that you can tough through.”  

In this context, it may be easier to understand why proven treatments have been forced outside of insurance and FDA adoption.

While the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) for trauma and acute anxiety, ketamine infusions for treatment resistant depression, and other modalities have proven their efficacies, they remain FDA approved for other indications, just not for mental health.  

These treatments are administered by the same exact Board-Certified Doctors which may treat people with SGB or Ketamine for pain, but these modalities are forced to wear the “off-label” tag. This off-label tag impacts everyone involved:

  • Doctors shoulder materially more liability
  • Mental trauma survivors pay out of pocket
  • Companies fight an uphill battle of educating clients 

We’re dedicated to providing people with access to treatments that work while proving to the industry that these biological treatments are not “fringe” – they just haven’t made it through the multi-decade process of FDA approval, insurance reimbursement, and medical community adoption. 

Stella Invests In Much More Than “Just The Procedure”

For every mental trauma survivors we treat, Stella loses approximately $2,000. By the way, we’re not alone. Some companies like Field Trip Health, Novamind, Numinus, Ketamine One, Wesana, Revitalist, TrippSitter and others do as well. (They are public companies and so are their numbers, you don’t have to take my word for it). More on this later.

Unfortunately today, there is no singular “mental trauma cure.” Individuals’ paths to healing are customized to each respective person, their circumstance, their biology and their lifestyle.

What we’re building is not just “a procedure” or “an infusion.” It’s a curated whole person care model which encompasses medical, behavioral and social determinants of care (which may involve a procedure or infusion along the way). Stella pairs biological modalities with psychological ones to ensure the most effective, lasting outcomes.

In some ways, you could compare Stella’s approach to mental trauma treatment to tearing an ACL. Treatment for an ACL tear often looks something like this:

  • Surgery to repair the torn ligament
  • Appointments with qualified doctors to verify all is healing appropriately
  • Medications along the way to manage the pain
  • Months of physical therapy to relearn to walk
  • Crutches to aid your walking while you rebuild strength

We follow a similar blueprint for mental trauma relief.

Stella provides a biological intervention to heal the injury caused by mental trauma, pair it with trauma-informed therapy for reintegration, provide self-help tools to manage the pain along the way, and recommend a support system to ensure you maintain the gains. This is all wrapped up in dedicated compassionate care coordination that guides your journey from beginning to end.

This may shed light on the earlier point – “how is it possible Stella loses $2,000 per treated patient?”  The simple answer is – we don’t exist to “transact a procedure.” Matter of fact, you may be able to get that cheaper somewhere else. 

We’ve invested in 360 degree care coordination that leads to outcomes previously unfathomed. 

This is all on the bet that one day, this will be a standard of care for mental trauma survivors. That insurance companies will adopt the new age of mental healthcare. That those we serve no longer have to come out of pocket for treatment to which they have a right.

Oh and by the way, if we don’t successfully obtain FDA and insurance adoption, we’ll likely be out of business in the next few years.

In Conclusion

We’re not able to fix the US healthcare system.  I wish we could.  We can’t.

We are able to make innovative treatments accessible to mental trauma survivors nationally (50+ locations in the US) and globally (we have locations in Australia and Israel). 

We are able to wrap these treatments in additional care and not view them as “transactional procedures.”  Mental trauma survivors need care – not procedures. 

We are able to prove to the government regulatory bodies that these treatments are objectively safe and incredibly effective for the right people and when administered by the right teams in the right settings.

We are able to prove to insurance companies that these treatments both save lives and save them money.

Unfortunately, between now and insurance reimbursability, these treatments will cost survivors too much money and force companies like Stella to subsidize losses.

We’re working hard to change that. We chose you.

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