Advocating for Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Coverage

Advocating for Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) Coverage
By stella
18th Jan 2023

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the City Council are exploring alternative treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including Stella’s innovative treatment, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), or, as some officers refer to it, the “God shot.” 

Chicago’s police force is facing a mental health crisis, with six officers dying from suicide in 2022. Not only does their job take a toll on their mental health, but the loss of partners to suicide leads to debilitating secondary trauma.

Secondary trauma, also known as vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue, is the emotional and psychological strain that can result from exposure to the traumatic experiences of others, either through direct interactions or indirect interactions. 

Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Eugene Lipov, who has been a leader in the battle against post-traumatic stress for the last two decades, aims to reset the system to its pre-trauma state for those in need, first responders, veterans, and civilians.

Several CPD officers, including Commander Melinda Linas, have received it to combat trauma’s effects. Linas stated that the treatment “made me a better person, it made me a better mother, it made me a better wife, it made me a better police officer.”

However, though the FDA approves the SGB for use as a pain management treatment and local anesthetics like bupivacaine and ropivacaine, the SGB is not yet FDA-approved for the treatment of PTSD and costs $1,500-$2,000 per shot. The phrase “not FDA-approved” can raise questions, but as Stella Chief Psychologist Dr. Shauna Springer explains it on Anxiety.org,

“SGB has been applied to symptoms of trauma in the same way that aspirin is used to reduce risk of heart attack. Aspirin is also “not FDA-approved” for use in this way – like SGB, it was also primarily developed to treat pain, but has shown clear promise.”

Aldermen advocated for the shot to be covered by officers’ health insurance, flex spending plans, or grants funded by the City Council. Despite the high cost and lack of formal approval, CPD officers who have received the treatment have reported significant improvements in their lives.

Biological interventions for mental health care, including the SGB and Ketamine Infusion Therapy, are currently not covered by insurance. Stella offers assessments and follow-up appointments that may be eligible for insurance reimbursement, although the actual amount reimbursed may vary based on insurance coverage and deductible.

To make treatment more affordable, Stella accepts payment through Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), and major credit cards, as well as offering interest-free financing plans through CareCredit for up to six months to qualifying patients.

We are committed to providing the best care for individuals dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.

Our team of trauma-informed Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners will conduct a thorough assessment of your symptoms and health history to create a personalized treatment plan. Our comprehensive care plans include innovative biological interventions like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) and ketamine Infusion Therapy, as well as regular follow-ups over a six-month period to ensure that our patients achieve their desired outcomes. 

If you are interested in learning more about our services, please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our Care Advocates at 412-455-8813 to schedule an initial assessment.

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Most Commonly Asked Questions about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB)

Most Commonly Asked Questions about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB)
By stella
12th Dec 2022

If you’ve experienced symptoms of emotional trauma and mental health challenges, you’ve most likely researched the different types of treatments available for relief, like talk therapy and medication – two of the most common types of treatment. So naturally, we gravitate toward these treatments as they are currently the most well-known and covered by most insurance companies. 

We may be skeptical at first when we encounter new types of innovative treatments. While a whole network of innovative and minimally invasive procedures can offer relief sometimes in an instant, they aren’t the first line of defense for treatment recommendations.

Innovative treatments like the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) have been around for decades, even centuries, but many are just finding out about it now. 

Stella’s Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), known as the Dual Sympathetic Reset, has made waves in mental health care and has challenged the traditional care path model as a safe and efficient way to relieve symptoms like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It can help relieve years, and even decades, of debilitating symptoms. As this life-saving treatment gains awareness, education is a crucial step in addressing the questions and concerns of those looking for the right care. 

This article covers the 15 most commonly asked questions about the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB):

Is SGB proven to work?

At Stella, we believe in the transparency of treatment outcomes. While no medical procedure is guaranteed to work for everyone, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) by Stella has helped thousands of patients find lasting relief from their trauma-related symptoms. 

The PTSD Checklist (PCL) is a self-report survey used to measure PTSD symptoms. According to the National Center for PTSD Guidance, a 10-point decrease in PCL score is a clinically significant improvement. In a study of 327 Stella patients who received SGB between December 2016 and February 2020, on average, over 83% reported a 28.9-point decrease in their PCL score. These Stella patients experienced a result that’s almost three times better than that of other treatments. 

How long do the positive effects of SGB last?

Over 83% of Stella patients experience lasting relief from their trauma symptoms after one dual injection.

The duration of the Stellate Ganglion Block’s (SGB’s) positive effects varies from patient to patient, lasting months or years. 

While the longevity of SGB’s effectiveness is still being researched, in a 2014 study, 70% of participants were clinical successes at a follow-up administered between 3 and 6 months after treatment.

Will SGB erase my memory or impair my survival instinct?

The Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) does not erase your memory, but after treatment, you may find that your memory is clearer. 

SGB does not compromise your survival instinct because it does not “turn off” your fight-or-flight response. When your fight-or-flight response is stuck in an overactive state, your body is constantly experiencing a high level of stress which can be due to an imaginary threat. For example, it can feel like you’re being chased by an imaginary bear, for example. SGB does not take your ability to run away from the bear. Instead, it removes the imaginary bear. Should a real bear appear, you will still instinctually run away from it. 

How is SGB by Stella different from SGB from other providers?

Widely considered the pioneer of the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) for PTSD, Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, is a Board Certified anesthesiologist and pain management physician. More than fifteen years ago, he initialed his SGB protocol that has the ability to “reset” the fight-or-flight response, returning it 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” – yield the best results. The injections are given back to back. 

Each Stella doctor is Board Certified and is personally trained by Dr. Lipov in Stella’s proprietary SGB methodology. We also require that our doctors use image guidance for correct needle placement. 

 SGB by Stella 

The “Dual Sympathetic Reset”

Traditional SGB
ProviderBoard Certified medical doctor Naturopathic practitioner, CRNA, Board Certified medical doctor
Trained by Dr. Eugene Lipov?YesNo
Side of NeckRight. Left for right-sided non-responders. Right
Injection Site(s)C6 and C4 (or C3)C6
Sedation Local and Twilight Sedation (optional)Varies
Accessibility40+ Treatment Centers nationwideSingle clinic
Financing PlansProvided to those who qualify Typically unavailable

Has SGB been clinically studied?

Yes, there are numerous clinical studies about Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB).

This study explores the effectiveness of single and dual injection SGB. While both methods are effective, the study proposes that dual injection SGB – the same approach Stella uses – may be more effective than a single injection SGB in the treatment of PTSD. 

Mulvaney S. W., Curtis K. E., Ibrahim T. S. (2020) Comparison C6 Stellate Ganglion versus C6 and C4 Cervical Sympathetic Chain Blocks for Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Analysis of 147 Patients. J Neurol Disord Stroke 7(3): 1163.

This multisite, randomized clinical trial of SGB outcomes on PTSD symptoms, reports an improvement in the PTSD symptoms of active-duty service members after two SGB procedures. On average, the group treated with SGB experienced a 12.6-point decrease in their Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS-5) score, and the control group experienced a 6.1-point decrease in their CAPS-5 score. 

Olmsted, K. L. R., Bartoszek, M., Mulvaney, S., McLean, B., Turabi, A., Young, R., … & Walters, B. B. (2020). Effect of stellate ganglion block treatment on posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA psychiatry, 77(2), 130-138.

This review of recent and historical SGB literature finds evidence of substantial beneficial psychiatric effects that supports the use of SGB as a PTSD treatment that may provide positive results and reduce barriers to therapy, particularly among military populations.

Summers, M. R., & Nevin, R. L. (2017). Stellate ganglion block in the treatment of post‐traumatic stress disorder: A review of historical and recent literature. Pain Practice, 17(4), 546-553.

Co-authored by Dr. Eugene Lipov, Stella’s Chief Medical Officer, this study reviews the clinical evidence and neurobiology of SGB for PTSD treatment. 

Lipov, E., & Kelzenberg, B. (2012). Sympathetic system modulation to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): a review of clinical evidence and neurobiology. Journal of affective disorders, 142(1-3), 1-5.

How does SGB work with other types of treatments (like talk therapy)?

The Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) can work well in combination with other treatments. After SGB, many Stella patients feel a new sense of calm that can accelerate the positive impact of existing therapies (e.g., talk therapy, EMDR, CBT, DBT, etc.). For example, patients may find that they can recall their past and discuss it with their mental health provider without feeling as though they’re reliving it. 

If you already have a mental health provider, we suggest that you continue working with them after SGB to further your healing. If you do not have a mental health care provider, Stella may be able to refer you to one.

What’s included with Treatment by Stella?

Treatment by Stella is a commitment to your recovery, from first contact to the moment you feel like yourself again. The Stella Standard of Care was created to meet your needs before, during, and after treatment. This is the new model of trauma treatment. 

Getting To Know You:

The first step is to speak with a licensed Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). The PMHNP will conduct a bio-psycho-social assessment, including a review of your symptoms and health history. The PMHNP will create a custom treatment recommendation for you using this information.

Our PMHPs use validated measures to gauge your symptoms. These measures include the Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist (PCL-5) for symptoms of PTSD/ emotional trauma, the Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) for anxiety, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) for depression, and the Rivermead Post-Concussion Symptoms Questionnaire (RPQ) for traumatic brain injury.

Curated Care:

Throughout the journey, you will work with a dedicated Patient Care Coordinator who will coordinate your care and help answer any questions along the way.

If receiving the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB), the entire procedure takes less than 20 minutes, but please plan on being at the facility for one to two hours. The positive effects of SGB are often immediate.

If receiving ketamine, each treatment typically takes 45 minutes. Please plan on being at the facility for one to two hours. Most have relief from symptoms within hours of treatment.

Those on Care Plans will work with Stella’s PMHNPs over six months and receive an individualized treatment plan that combines biological and psychological interventions to provide the best outcomes possible.

Ongoing Support:

Following treatment, your PMHNP will call to review the procedure’s effectiveness and ask about any symptoms you may be experiencing. Each patient will also have a 30-minute follow-up to continue that review and discuss how to maximize the positive effects of treatment. PMHNPs are there to physically, mentally, and emotionally support a patient, as uniquely required, during this session.

Those on Care Plans will have additional follow-up sessions with Stella’s PMHNPs which include completing standard mental health assessments, determining whether additional treatment is warranted, and discussing trauma-informed, healing-related topics such as getting better sleep, approaching grief, or mindfulness techniques.

Stella is here for you

Fast and effective care for symptoms of emotional trauma and mental health challenges is at our front door, and we have already helped thousands of people in need. The more questions asked and the more information given can help lead innovative treatments like SGB and mental health companies like Stella into the lives of people in need. We’re dedicated to you and innovative treatments because the possibilities are endless. 

If you are interested in learning more, please contact our Care Advocate team directly by calling 1-412-455-8813.

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What Is Recovery Mode?

What Is Recovery Mode?
By stella
02nd Nov 2022

After the 20-minute Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) treatment, Adam’s life changed.

Adam, whose real name was changed for privacy reasons, suffered from mental health challenges for years created by consistent, repeated traumas throughout his life.

Finding the right treatment was a long journey, but SGB’s impact was quick.

“I no longer have continual pressure in my head, defensive in difficult conversations and arguments, impatient with people or situations, or have negative thoughts. It’s like a huge dark cloud was lifted from me.”

Treatments like SGB, talk therapy, electroconvulsive therapy, and prescription medications can lead to excellent results for people battling mental health challenges. Even though these treatments can bring rapid relief from trauma symptoms, they don’t mark the end of the road to recovery.

For many people, there’s still work to do after a major breakthrough. Continued mental health care after treatment allows us to live the most fulfilling life possible.

Life after treatment

Recovery mode refers to the changes someone notes in their mind and body after treatment. Recovery mode can include a surge of emotions, new thoughts and fresh perspectives, and physical differences.

Recovery mode is our mind and body’s way of laying out the best steps forward for a beneficial recovery.

Let’s explore how recovery mode presents itself, the immediate actions to take, and how to promote healing for years to come.

What to expect during a healing journey

Emotional releases

It’s common for people living with debilitating symptoms to suppress their emotions without realizing it. After they experience a successful treatment outcome, they’re likely to experience a flood of unfamiliar emotions.

These thoughts and feelings can be confusing and overwhelming. However, this is a normal reaction to many different treatments.

Emotional Acuity: The ability to recognize and correctly identify one’s own emotions, critical to navigating new thoughts and feelings.

To get in touch with these emotions and really explore them, we suggest asking the following questions:

  • Is it something I’ve felt before?
  • What words can I use to articulate this?
  • Am I experiencing a single emotion or a combination of emotions?

Assessing and understanding emotions is the first step to navigating them.

Gaining new perspectives

Many people have a new perception of themselves during a healing journey or after successful treatment. This perception can impact daily life, employment, and/or relationships.

It can take time to fully allow your emotions to shift into what feels like healthy ‘new normals.’

Make sure to validate the truth behind what is being experienced, like when you experience happiness or sadness, it’s not wrong to feel that way. Don’t try to change or recreate the truth. Instead, remember that perceptions, feelings, and emotions come and go.

Physical changes

Mental health challenges can take a toll on the body. Unfortunately, we can get so used to feeling one way for years or decades before treatment that we often forget to check in on our physical well-being, like when the stress we hold in our muscles tenses up and leads to pain and soreness.

Whether or not our body is having a good or bad day, take the time to check in and do a full body scan. Ask questions about our posture, take deep breaths, and think about the best way to get our mind and body through the day.

Though these life adjustments may seem minor, checking in on ourselves is a habit worth forming. Helping our bodies and minds adjust to the relief from symptoms can normalize these new experiences and create new baselines for our mental and physical health.

Take steps toward continued care

Regardless of what one’s healing journey looks like, it’s important to remember that no one has to go it alone.

Regardless of whether someone has a support system of friends, family, and/or colleagues, mental health care providers are always willing to help. Here are five key steps:

Talk to a mental health care provider

A typical step in a healing journey is working with mental health professionals like psychologists, counselors, clinicians, therapists, clinical social workers, psychiatrists, or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners.

Once the right fit is found, these professionals can help us better understand the thoughts, feelings, and actions we may experience while feeling the impact of symptoms. They also teach how to adjust thought processes, give the right resources, and recognize the best paths on a healing journey.

Awareness around stressors

Stress can exacerbate mental health challenges. For example, it can heighten symptoms like anxiety and depression and hinder one’s ability to get a good night’s sleep. It can also lead to physical pain, like headaches and muscle tightness.

According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness, “When experiencing long-term stress, your brain is exposed to increased hormone levels called cortisol. This exposure weakens your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick.”

Mindfulness habits and physical health

Exercise and eating well are good ways to reduce stress throughout the day. In return, these can promote better sleep and balance in the mind. Ask a doctor or nutritionist for healthy food suggestions.

Meditation has great benefits for ongoing care, especially during an emotional release. Meditation helps us gain new perspectives on our past experiences. It promotes a focus on the present and allows us to approach the day with a calm and collected mindset.

Assess old, new, and future habits and relationships

In creating a new normal, we may realize that certain situations, behaviors, and relationships are no longer healthy for us. In some cases, it is important to consider whether continuing to engage in them is helpful to our growth.

It can be hard to break away from activities or relationships that may have been part of our lives for a long time. But it can be a necessary step.

Try out old hobbies and explore new ones

Explore new hobbies or activities once enjoyed. For years, our minds may have tricked us and said that the activities we enjoyed weren’t as positive as we thought.

The truth is that joy and positive experiences are just as powerful and valuable as any other feeling. When we experience an emotional release of joy, follow the instinct, especially if it comes at a time of sadness. Like many emotions, sadness and joy can happen at the same time.

Revisiting old hobbies opens channels for escape, an exploration into our feelings, distraction, and a wellness reset. Hobbies can be somewhat therapeutic and can change our perception of ourselves, our loved ones, and those we interact with daily. Old or new, exploring passions and hobbies can help our recovery process.

Start your healing journey

Stella is here for you. We offer industry-leading biological interventions for symptoms of post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and depression.

Our care plans begin with an assessment by a trauma-informed Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who will review an individual’s symptoms and health history to create a custom recommendation. Our wrap-around care plans include cutting-edge biological interventions – like SGB and/or Ketamine Infusion Therapy – plus regular follow-ups over a six-month period to ensure that our patients achieve their desired outcomes.

Call a Care Advocate at (908) 928-4086 to schedule an initial assessment.

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Addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color

Addressing the mental health needs of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
By stella
28th Jul 2022

Each July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month brings awareness to the unique struggles that racial and ethnic minority groups face regarding mental illness in the US. Unfortunately, members of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and other minority groups often face disproportionate inequities in care, support, or mental health services in this country.

As a result, they are significantly more likely to develop mental health conditions. One of the significant barriers to mental health treatment is access and the need for understanding mental health support.

Traumas can impact communities as a collective and the individuals themselves and a major barrier to treatment around mental health is the lack of access and understanding of mental health support. 

This BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, we sat down with three mental health care advocates to discuss the struggles of their communities, the stigmas they still face and the changes they hope to see.

Ryan Mundy, the founder and CEO of Alkeme Health, founded the company after noticing that there weren’t any health platforms that focused on the trajectory of Black health.

“They were never given permission to talk about it so it’s kind of like a self-fulfilling prophecy. It becomes a stigma because nobody has the language or the education or the space to talk about it.”

Alkeme is a streaming platform that provides therapists, wellbeing courses, guided meditations, and livestream sessions centered around the Black experience. 

“We’re Black today, Black tomorrow. Black forever. And underneath that, there’s a lot of different ways in which people show up as Black. I’m not here to segment or to say you are too Black or not Black enough. If you identify as Black, our aim is to have a space for you within the platform.”

Artist Leo “Lowhi”, mental health advocate from Asian Mental Health Project, discussed how he felt shame and guilt around feeling emotions from an early age. 

“The fear of reaching out and having someone judge me for that, in my mind state at the time, that’s worse than whatever pain that I’m going through.”

Leo educates, empowers and advocates for mental health with the Asian Mental Health Project which provides resources to make mental healthcare more accessible. Join a community wellness group or sign up for Asian Men’s Wellness Check-in today.

And Kathleen, who associates herself with both the Latinx and Middle Eastern Community, discusses how admitting that you need help and that you are not okay is actually the strongest decision you could ever make for yourself. 

“It can be an uphill battle if you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe in mental health and they believe that whatever you’re going through is just made up, that it’s ‘all in your head.’ “ 

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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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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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What's All The Talk About Trauma Response?

What's All The Talk About Trauma Response?
By stella
24th Mar 2022

If you are a trauma survivor, a mental healthcare worker, or know someone who has experienced trauma, you have noticed the rise in trauma awareness, especially during the pandemic. 

Data from YouGov.com finds that nearly a quarter (23%) of 18-to 24-year-olds say they’ve sought mental health counseling during the pandemic. This is a noticeable increase from April 2020, when 13% of adults under 25 reported that they had turned to a mental health professional during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The last 2 years have brought critical paradigm shifts in our views on trauma. There has been increasing acknowledgment of trauma, post-traumatic stress, and the solutions that need to be taken to support those that have experienced it. Awareness has been influenced by musicians, actors, and popular personalities.

Lady Gaga created and expanded her Mental Health First Aid for teenagers in high schools across the country. Prince Harry joined BetterUp, which provides coaching and mental health services to businesses and individuals. And, in his memoir Over the Top, Van Ness describes his experiences with addiction, depression, trauma, and being HIV-positive.

Over the past 18 years, Google searches for “trauma” have steadily risen, peaking in 2021, according to Vox.com’s article How trauma became the word of the decade. These spotlights are important to the growing awareness of mental health and trauma but we must continue to educate ourselves, and others, as we push forward on destigmatization.

What Happens if We Don’t Know We Have Trauma or Leave Our Trauma Untreated?

When trauma remains untreated, signs, symptoms and responses may begin to appear.

Some recognizable symptoms following trauma are agitation, nervousness, anxiety, trouble concentrating, depression and headaches. There are many more, which you can explore on our previous blog, Signs and Symptoms.

Outside of the gaining an understanding of the signs of trauma symptoms, there has been a growing movement happening right now on TikTok where users are having tough conversations around trauma and information sharing with one another. With over 110.8M views on the hashtag #traumaresponse, more and more people who have unknowingly experienced trauma are recognizing their own personal symptoms and responses for the first time.

What most don’t know is that there can be a difference between a trauma symptom and a trauma response.

What is Trauma Response?

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 personality. It’s 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 Can Trauma Responses Look Like?

Hyper Independence 

Trauma can make us feel that our safest path is to work and live alone. We may feel like the only person we know we can rely on is ourselves and it can make us feel undeserving of connection with others. We can feel ashamed of who we have become and avoid social contact and interdependence for this reason as well. 

Overworking 

Overworking ourselves can be an attempt to outrun our trauma. It is a distraction from our trauma symptoms. When we are not working, symptoms increase because we longer have the focus of work to distract our intrusive memories. 

Lack of Memory

Cognitive changes are part of the trauma response, including memory and concentration loss. Think of unaddressed trauma as a “file” on your mental computer that slows the whole system down. While it is unaddressed, it is always running in the background. Then all of a sudden, it sends a “pop up” into your mental space – which impedes the ability to focus and remember things with clarity. 

There may also be a conscious or unconscious suppression of disturbing memories. When we suppress one thing,  we often suppress other memories as well since our memories often interlock in our memory network. 

Apologizing Constantly

Apologizing constantly can be a behavior designed to “keep the peace” and “socially appease” someone else. If our trauma is interpersonal, this behavior can develop in response to an attempt to avoid dangerous interactions. The same can happen with People Pleasing (Fawning) and Over Explaining (Fawning) trauma responses. 

Isolation 

Many trauma survivors have said for years that trauma shrinks their world. We may feel overwhelmed or unsafe in groups, quick to anger, misunderstood, or just uninterested in being around people. 

Oversharing 

Oversharing can be part of lacking boundaries when we have been violated in traumatic ways and can also be part of the anxious-ambivalent attachment style 

Body Dysmorphia 

Body dysmorphia and past trauma are only just beginning to be understood. Nevertheless, a growing body of research suggests that trauma is strongly associated with the development of BDD.

Approaching Trauma Treatment

Though many people have experienced or are now recognizing exposure to trauma, awareness surrounding trauma is growing, and that’s a good thing. Signs, symptoms and responses to trauma can come in many different forms. The more access we have to care, the better the chance of us finding relief when needed. 

There are many highly recommended treatments for trauma. In recent years, the Stellate Ganglion Block (SGB) has emerged as a promising treatment option for symptoms of trauma. Stella founders Dr. Eugene Lipov and Dr. Shauna Springer recently published a study with other trauma experts that you can read more about here or learn more about SGB on our “How It Works” page.

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