Havant lawyer supports research on treating PTSD with surgery

Havant Personal Injury solicitor, Vicki Wright, assesses the treatment options.

When we suffer an injury as a result of an accident or following an assault, it is a natural reaction that we also suffer shock and an element of anxiety. Such anxiety may only last a few days or weeks but in some cases, the situation is more serious and a recognisable psychiatric condition known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may develop.

PTSD was first recognised during the First World War when, as a result of the traumatic conditions  experienced in the trenches, soldiers developed “shell shock”.  It was only in the early 1980s, however, that the condition was recognised and became known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  It is estimated to affect about one in three people who have had a traumatic experience. For those individuals who are reliving the trauma through nightmares and flashbacks, it can have a hugely significant impact on the individual’s daily life.

PTSD can currently be successfully treated by a number of ways including, for example, CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) or with medication.

Over the last few years, however, experimental brain surgery in America known as deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been developed to treat depression, dementia, substance abuse etc.  Although some treatments have proved successful, the experiments have been criticised and some have called for the research to be stopped.  The reason for this is whilst the trials for treating depression were treated with caution, other experiments were treated with less care.  DBS is a very precise treatment whereby electrodes are guided to within a millimeter of their target to stimulate a specific brain area, the risks of this procedure including brain hemorrhage, infection, or even death, whilst uncommon are clearly very serious.

The potential uses for this type of treatment for the future, however, is very exciting.  In 2006, an experiment designed to help a patient with very bad panic attacks resulted in there being no impact on the panic attacks but instead, there was a significant reduction in his alcohol intake. This led  researchers establishing that stimulation to the same brain region led to unintended reduction in drinking and smoking. Over the past few years, reports of DBS assisting individuals with drug and alcohol problems have emerged.

There is clearly still a huge amount of work required before this type of treatment may be available in the UK for conditions such as PTSD. But if successful, there is the potential to assist those individuals who suffer debilitating consequences that have occurred following a traumatic or stressful even in their lives.

Vicki Wright at Swain & Co says, “At Swain & Co, we believe that research should be prioritised as PTSD affects so many people with such a debilitating condition”.