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Study: Chronic Pain Treatment Relieves Hot Flashes in Menopausal Women

Nerve-block injection lessens depression as well, authors say (October 14)

Menopausal women experienced half as many hot flashes after receiving a non-hormonal chronic pain treatment, according to a new study presented at the Anesthesiology 2013 annual meeting, being held in San Francisco.

The nerve-block treatment interrupts the area of the brain that regulates body temperature, reducing moderate-to-severe hot flashes and alleviating depression in menopausal women, breast cancer patients, and women in surgical menopause, according to the authors.

The prospective, randomized, controlled study included 40 patients between 30 and 65 years of age who experienced at least 25 hot flashes per week. Half of the participants received a stellate ganglion blockade (SGB) injection with a local anesthetic. An SGB blockade was injected in the neck about 2 inches to the right of the voice box. The other 20 patients received an injection of sterile saline. The patients recorded the daily number of hot flashes in a journal and were followed for 6 months. The study participants were also objectively assessed by a core temperature monitor, which measures changes in a person’s skin conductants.

Moderate-to-severe hot flashes decreased by 50% in women who received the SGB injection. The authors also observed a 30% decrease in depression and a 10% improvement in verbal learning. These findings were important, as loss of memory and cognition are another frequent concern of women in menopause who have hot flashes.

“This is a fast, relatively painless, long-lasting, and cost-effective treatment for hot flashes,” said investigator David R. Walega, MD, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“It has tremendous potential to help not only menopausal women, but also breast cancer patients and women in surgical menopause [whose ovaries have been removed], who have had to put up with ineffective treatments or simply ‘grin and bear it.’”

Source: PR Newswire; October 14, 2013.

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