El Segundo Herald: TBI, PTSD, Pain Treatment, Chronic Pain
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See the original article in the El Segundo Herald.
Treating Pain Leads to New Goal in Life By Cristian Vasquez
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For 20 years Dr. Harold Kraft used his medical abilities in the operating room as an anesthesiologist; there he was able to treat pain patients with epidural steroids during a time when that was the only treatment available in the field. Eventually, Dr. Kraft would leave the East Coast to California in search of different opportunities and would discover the effectiveness laser treatment to help pain patients; it's a concept he now wants to push farther by funding a clinical trial that would focus on the efficiency of laser treatment on people with posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD].
Dr. Kraft was a skeptic at first with regards to using lasers to treat pain patients. However, an old patient of his shared her personal success with laser treatment and the doctor looked further into the technology. "The results that she got were jaw dropping. After studying the biology of lasers, I believe that it is by far the best thing for treating skeletal and muscular pain," Dr. Kraft said. "The results have been fantastic. I am seeing up to ninety percent of patients get some relief: the average relief is in the area of seventy percent. A seventy percent for pain relief is phenomenal."
Dr. Kraft opened his practice in August of 2015 in the City of Manhattan Beach, where he treats patients afflicted by different types of treat pains with lasers. He does not prescribe drugs or narcotics, nor does he use shots or needles, which he describes as exciting, given that conventional non-laser treatment has historically relied on these.
"Most of my patients have failed trial drugs and other therapies, and this laser can make them better," Dr. Kraft said. "There is almost nothing as satisfying as taking a patient that is in severe pain and taking them out of pain without a drug. It has been very exciting. You are able to treat a lot more pain than we were able to treat before."
However, Dr. Kraft came across a way to make his work in the field of pain relief not only more exciting but significantly more beneficial to the public, as a whole, while treating a local Vietnam War Veteran, who suffered from PTSD.
"He introduced me to the fact that PTSD was a bad disease, which had negatively affected his life, so I started researching it," Dr. Kraft said. "Within a month of when I started the research, a paper come out of Denver of a chiropractor and a psychiatrist using a laser similar to mine right into the head. Trans-cranial Laser to treat PTSD and TBI [traumatic brain injury]."
Dr. Kraft describes the results published as breathtaking and phenomenal. Despite only being a 10-patient study, the results surpassed the average effectiveness of PTSD treatment, which is only helpful in 50 percent of patients. That 50 percent standard is considered the gold standard, but the new study gave Dr. Kraft hope that with laser treatment a higher standard could be met.
"That was another fortuitous circumstance that made me realize that PTSD is a horrible disease and that I may have, via the Denver group, discovered what could be a breakthrough treatment, which is laser to the head," Dr. Kraft said. "Only recently, in the past two years, the neurobiology completely supports that using lasers in the front of the head would treat PTSD."
Laser treatment is applied through a massage-like roller ball with the laser coming out of a quartz marble. The laser feels warm on the patient as it penetrates to the muscle or nerve or bone, it is absorbed by the mitochondria, which activates ATP [adenosine triphosphate]. The ATP energizes the cell and additional chemicals are created which accelerate healing and decrease pain. "Every cell in our body uses ATP; it is essentially a carrier of energy," Dr. Kraft explained. "Every cell in our body uses ATP to carry energy from mitochondria to other parts of the body that need it. So the laser accelerates the body's process for treating pain and for healing."
Using the pain-treatment laser technology on the brain, the Denver study revealed that applying the laser to the front of the head can help the prefrontal cortex grow back to its normal size. The amygdala, which is where emotions such as fear are generated, is constantly hyperactive in PTSD patients. The prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for a person's ability to act rationally, process information and control the emptions produced by the amygdala, is physically shrunken in people afflicted with PTSD.
"The timing was great and by happenstance another paper came out indicating that the absorption of lasers was much higher in the skull and in the brain; much higher than anyone expected," Dr. Kraft said. "That meant that if you run the numbers, you discover that the study that had been done in Denver with the Trans-cranial Laser Therapy was at the very, very, very lowest amount that would theoretically be able to have an effect. So I thought what if we did the high-end? So they had phenomenal room to grow."
In a presentation made by Dr. Kraft, he states that the Pentagon spends $3.3 billion a year on PTSD treatments, which are described as modestly effective. The most common types of PTSD treatments are psychotherapy and antidepressants; however, psychotherapy requires 10-20 weeks of therapy, has a high dropout rate, and is not scalable due to the need for trained providers, according to Dr. Kraft's presentation. Currently there are 1.1 million veterans diagnosed with PTSD, with an estimated 700,000 being afflicted since the Vietnam War and another 400,000 post 9-11. In the general population, it is estimated that 7 million civilians live with PTSD.
Dr. Kraft's clinical trial would work with 40 Wounded Warriors afflicted with PTSD in order to further investigate the effectiveness of this technology on this condition, which causes recurring nightmares, sleep depravation, hyper vigilance and irritability, emotional distress and depression, as well as 22 veteran suicides per day.
"I will tell you that in my dream world, some company in El Segundo, in particular Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, could fund this in a heartbeat with a donation," Dr. Kraft said. "The study needs $400-$500K to get rolling. Those three companies should be ashamed of themselves if they don't fund this study."