Spinal Cord Stimulators - Living Pain Free

At least 100 million American adults are affected by chronic pain. Implanted devices have been proven effective, but they make it unsafe to get MRI scans, and difficult to diagnose problems.

In Wednesday's Medical Moment, how first of its kind, FDA approved, device is changing that.

For years a simple walk with her dog Carmen was just too painful for Susan Hennen.

"On a scale of one to ten, it was a 14, or 12, or beyond," says Susan Hennen.

Susan has suffered with back pain for more than two decades.

"I was depressed,” explains Susan “I did not want to live a life on oxycodone."

She had considered an implantable spinal cord stimulator, a device similar to a pacemaker that works by interrupting pain signals to the brain. The problem? The devices were not MRI safe, until now.

"It is a breakthrough, significant breakthrough," says Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, a Professor of Pain Medicine and Anesthesiology at Rush University Medical Center.

Doctor Asokumar Buvanendran says the sure-scan neurostimulator has specially designed leads making it MRI safe.

"And this is where it's actually sitting," says Dr. Buvanendran.

It is now allowing doctors to still diagnose the possible patient problems of tomorrow, while taking care of the pain today.

"If you are able to get him or her back to functionality, it's huge," says Dr. Buvanendran.

Susan had the device implanted two weeks ago and is already feeling the difference.

"I am glad I did it,” says Susan. “I am really glad I did it."

So is Carmen, who she has been able to keep up with now.

Patients considering the device can do a trial before making it permanent. Patients wear an external neurostimulator around their waist during the week-long screening test to see what kind of pain relief they can expect.


TOPIC: Spinal Cord Stimulators - Living Pain Free
REPORT: MB # 3683

BACKGROUND: Most people experience back pain every now and then but often do not understand what is causing the pain. This pain can sometimes interfere with our daily lives and may interrupt plans. Common forms of back pain occur in the mid to low back and includes fractures, sore muscles and tendons and herniated discs. These injuries develop over an extended period of time, leaving patients with little relief. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/understanding-back-pain-basics)

CAUSES: Back pain cultivates from our own individual bad habits. Intense physical activity, poor posture, and sitting incorrectly are all self-inflecting factors that cause our backs to give us a painful and uncomfortable feeling. Generally, back pain exists in the lower part of a person's back, but may sometimes appear at the neck. Sometimes there is not a specific reason why back pain occurs. This may happen when simple motor movements such as walking, stretching and bending become more difficult. Chronic back pain is a constant ache caused from muscle tension. This condition is called myofascial and stems from emotional issues or stress. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/guide/understanding-back-pain-basics)

TREATMENT: A change of physical activity is one of the most common treatments for back pain. Because back pain can be so broad, it is hard for doctors to diagnose a patient immediately. Heating pads, ice packs and pain medication are all helpful in aiding back pain, but frequent trips to your chiropractor for weekly adjustments may help as well. If back pain is more serious, surgery may be necessary along with cortisone injections. (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/back-pain/DS00171/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: An implantable spinal cord stimulator is a mechanism comparable to a pacemaker. The stimulator transmits electrical pulses to the spine through a pulse generator. The pulses hinder the nerve impulses that cause pain in the lower back. This is an outpatient procedure done through local anesthesia. A trial procedure is done first to determine how successful the implant will be. Then a second procedure is done to implant a permanent stimulator. When the surgery is finished, it is expected that the stimulation will be used several times a day depending on the patient's pain level. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/spinal-cord-stimulation-for-low-back-pain)


Deborah Song
Associate Director, Media Relations
Rush University Medical Center

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