redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
Women may be able to reduce the severity of hot flashes by as much as 50 percent with a quick injection to the neck of local anesthesia, according to a new study from Northwestern University.
“We think we are resetting the thermostat in women who are experiencing moderate to very severe hot flashes without using hormonal therapies,” said David Walega, MD, chief of the Division of Pain Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
The study included 40 women between the ages of 35 and 65 years old. All of the participants were experiencing either natural or induced menopause, and suffered debilitating hot flashes with more severe symptoms than the typical hot flash.
“Many of the women in our study experienced repeated drenching sweats that lessen the ability to go about a day-to-day routine, including interfering with their professional lives,” said Walega.”We wanted to see if this injection could provide symptom relief without hormones, as hormone therapy has been associated with an increased risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease, and there are few other viable treatment options available right now.”
To administer the treatment, Walega used low dose X-ray to guide an injection of bupivacaine hydrochloride, a commonly used local anesthetic, into a nerve bundle known as the stellate ganglion located in the neck near the voice box.
The 30-second procedure must be conducted by a trained physician because the injection is in close proximity to important structures like the carotid artery, the vertebral artery and the spinal nerves. Injecting any of those areas could potentially cause a seizure, loss of consciousness or other complications.
The idea for this treatment came from a pain study published in 2007 in the medical journal The Lancet, in which stellate ganglion injections were performed in an attempt to alleviate pain. The researchers found that in some cases hot flashes had entirely dissipated after the injection, independent of pain relief. This led Walega and his team to wonder if this might be a safe, effective way of treating hot flashes related to menopause.
In the current study, patients tracked their hot flashes for two weeks before and six months after the injection. Half the group received the anesthetic, while the other were injected with a placebo of saline, or salt-water. Those who received the anesthetic medication reported a reduction of hot flashes by as much as one-half, with the benefits lasting six months.
The researchers are now planning a larger study to further investigate the shot’s effectiveness. Walega presented the results of the initial study at a recent American Society of Anesthesiologists annual meeting.