In tonight's Medical Watch -- it is one of the most troubling yet misunderstood effects of war ... post traumatic stress disorder. Now a local doctor says he can block the effects and stop the torture for veterans and their families.
The sights. The sounds of war linger. Even when soldiers come home.
Jason Brown, Army Reservist: "You try to relax but you can't. And you're always tense. I started seeing shadows out of the corner of my eye."
It reminded him of the danger lurking all around in Bagdhad.
Jason Brown: "You stated getting people taking pot shots at you, people blowing up IEDS."
One explosive device blew up and knocked Jason Brown out.
Jason Brown: "Disoriented for a while. My ears bled for quite a while even after I got home some blood would seep out on the pillow. I felt nausiated, sick, tired all the time."
The 29-year old Army reservist knew something was wrong. But there is no true diagnostic test for post traumatic stress disorder. Still experts say they can see something on functional MRI ... the area of the brain most impacted.
Dr. Deborah Little, UIC Neuroimaging Researcher: "People who have PTSD have an overactive frontal lobe."
It's the place activated when we feel that fight or flight response. Yet for some reason in veterans it stays in high gear.
Dr. Little: "Imagine feeling threatened at all times."
Dr. Little: "It changes nerve function so that what happens with this constant state of anxiety is you get sprouting of new neurons."
And that can cause physical as well as emotional pain. That's why pain management specialist Dr. Eugene Lipov is using a treatment typically applied for pain but this time it's changing the brain.
Dr. Eugene Lipov, Medical Director, Advanced Pain Centers: "What we found is that a stellar ganglion block, which is an old procedure for pain in the arm, works for post traumatic stress syndrome, and it works good.
Through an injection, it works by shrinking the Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) sprouting in the brains of PTSD patients.
Dr. Lipov: "Trauma happens, NGF comes out, NGF goes here and then sprouting happens secondary to trauma."
Dr. Lipov: "When you do the block it turns off the NGF, so the NGF goes away and the sprouts go away and now he's back to normal."
Is he? PTSD expert Dr. Joseph Yount has been counseling soldiers and veterans for over twenty-five years at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
Dr. Joseph Yount, Clinical Psychologist, Coordinator PTSD Program, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center: "Blocking or any attempt to promote forgetting or suppression repression of this stuff is not going to work, they'll just force it in a corner where it's going to act up later."
Jason Brown: "At first when he told me about it I was kind of concerned and I was skeptical. Because I had seen everything the VA had done and none of that seemed to work so I didn't see how this little miracle shot was going to work. Then after I had it I felt so much better and I believe in it."
Dr. Lipov has successfully treated five patients and is now hoping to get funding to do more widespread research to help our servicemen and women before it's too late.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun