Elkhart doctors using brand new technology to to help victims of back pain

By: maureen.mcfadden@wndu.com Email
By: maureen.mcfadden@wndu.com Email

Do you know the most common malady behind people calling in sick?

You might think it's the flu or a cold but it's actually back pain.

As someone who has had two back surgeries, I understand how debilitating the pain can be and how it takes a hold on your life.

While I needed disc surgery to take care of my pain, for many people there's a minimally invasive procedure that gets people back to the land of the living.

But there's a new twist to this procedure and two local doctors were among the first in the country to do it at Elkhart General Hospital.

There’s a procedure that could change the way spinal cord stimulators are used worldwide.

Cynthia Thorne is a retired doctor but she’s now a patient for a first of its kind procedure to end the excruciating back pain she has lived with since an injury two and a half years ago.

”I have pain in my right lower back constantly,” she explains.

Her treatment of choice is one that has been around for years to treat back and leg pain. It involves implanting a small device called a neurostimulator under the skin in her lower back.

Cynthia already used a trial neurostimulator and it worked so today she is having the permanent device put in and she is ready.

“I can't tell you how much improvement it will be to not be in pain 24 hours a day. It alters everything you do.”

The neurostimulator she has, made by Medtronic, is the first MRI friendly device.

Doctor grove said this change is significant.

“In the past, if you needed to do an MRI, you would have to turn off the leads and take out the implant.”

After she is wheeled into surgery she is awake while doctors start to place the leads that will send mild electrical impulses to the brain, outsmarting the pain.

Cynthia will tell the doctors and technician when she is feeling relief once the leads are in place.

Once Doctors Grove and Beatty know they are in the right spot, a pocket is made that holds the device. Doctor grove says the MRI compatible device was tested 100 million times before getting FDA approval.

As the doctors work to put in the implant Dr. Beatty explains the beauty of now having a device that allows a patient to have MRIs.

“This new therapy that we have is quite exciting,” she said. “It gives us an option for patients who don't have a lot of options 13:08 or there option is a big, time consuming and not sure fire surgery.”

And the other big plus with this device? A month after surgery patients no longer have to worry about adjusting their remote control for pain every time they move, like going from a standing to sitting position.

By changing that and having the excellerometer do it itself, about 88 percent of people find out they get better pain relief

Because Dr. Thorne didn't need general anesthetic, she was up and talking to the Medtronic technician about how to charge her battery practically right after being wheeled out of the OR.

She will charge it once a week and be good to go. Clinical specialist Laura Kryglowski explains the beauty of the that internal excellerometer that will allow Cynthia to move without having to use her remote.

Dr. Beatty says this type of MRI compatible neurostimulator, with the excellerometer, is a game changer for this type of surgery.

“If she needs another MRI for whatever we're able to do that now and that's that part is a gamechanger,” she describes. “We're very excited. This is a great day, we're making big progress.”

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