New electronic device helps treat chronic pain

Published: Jul. 17, 2018 at 5:27 PM EDT
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Chronic pain affects 30 percent of people in America, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

That’s just one reason for the explosion in opioid abuse and addiction.

Now there’s a new neurostimulator called the HF10, and it has dramatically reduced pain for many patients.

Alisha Constancio couldn’t play with her dog, Daisy, three months ago. A car accident left her with chronic pain and headaches.

“I couldn’t even dress myself or shower without having or experiencing a flare-up or severe pain,” she says.

Alisha was on four drugs and tried other treatments, but her life was still dominated by pain. Then, Dr. Vernon Williams told her about the HF10 neurostimulator, an implanted device that sends high frequency pulses to nerves through wires near the spine.

“Potentially, you can turn up or turn down certain signals, turn off certain pain signals and give significant improvement of pain without the need for opioids or other medications,” Williams explains.

He says the HF10 uses high frequency, eliminating a side effect of other neurostimulators.

“What that means for the individual is that when they have that stimulator on, and it’s covering an area where they have pain, they don’t feel paresthesia, meaning they don’t feel tingling or buzzing, any kind of uncomfortable sensation,” Williams explains.

Eighty percent of patients in a clinical trial reported losing at least half their pain, and it seems to last. Alisha controls the pulses with a remote, depending on her pain level, and she can recharge the HF10 battery.

Before they get the HF10 implanted, patients get a temporary version of it to make sure it works.

The HF10 is good for people with moderate to severe back or leg pain that they’ve had for more than three months. They also need to have tried other treatment like medications or physical therapy first.




REPORT: MB #4443

BACKGROUND: Chronic pain is often defined as any pain lasting more than 12 weeks. Whereas acute pain is a normal sensation that alerts us to possible injury, chronic pain is very different. Chronic pain persists often for months or even longer. It may arise from an initial injury, such as a back sprain, or there may be an ongoing cause, such as illness. However, there may also be no clear cause. Other health problems, such as fatigue, sleep disturbance, decreased appetite, and mood changes, often accompany chronic pain. Chronic pain may limit a person’s movements, which can reduce flexibility, strength, and stamina. Although technology can help health professionals form a diagnosis, the best treatment plans are tailored to the person, with input from healthcare team members, who each have different training backgrounds and understand chronic pain. The person with pain and his or her loved ones also must be actively involved in the treatment.


OPIOIDS: Opioids are commonly prescribed because they are effective in relieving many types of pain. These medications are classified as narcotics and can be dangerous when abused. When used properly, opioids such as morphine have long been known to help the severe pain that follows surgery and to alleviate the suffering of people with advanced cancer. Recently, morphine and similar drugs have been used to treat chronic pain not caused by cancer. For many people, they have been remarkably helpful; for others, it either hasn’t worked or has created problems over time. When people have physical dependence and the opioid use is stopped, withdrawal symptoms include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps, and involuntary leg movements. Taken in large doses, or in combination with tranquilizers or alcohol, opioids can cause a deadly overdose that causes breathing to stop.


NEW ALTERNATIVE: Vernon Williams, MD, Director, Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute uses the HF 10 stimulator for some patients. It falls under the category of neuromodulation, where stimuli are applied to parts of the nervous system to affect pain. The device is implanted in an hour long minor surgical procedure. Dr. Williams said, “Eighty percent or more of individuals who have this kind of technology implanted have significant long-term benefit.” HF 10 patient Alisha Constancio had her permanent implant surgery performed by Dr. Timothy T. Davis.

(Source: Vernon Williams, MD)