At least 100 million American adults – more than the total affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined – are affected by chronic pain. For those who can’t find relief with conservative therapies, implanted devices have been proven effective, but make it unsafe to receive MRI scans. That can make it difficult to diagnose future problems. Now, there is a first of its kind FDA approved device that’s 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 felt like a fourteen,” Susan told Ivanhoe.
Susan has suffered with back pain for more than two decades.
“I was depressed. I didn’t want to live a life on oxycodone,” Susan said.
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 was that the devices were not MRI safe, until now.
“It is a breakthrough, a significant breakthrough,” Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, Professor, Pain Medicine, Anesthesiology, at Rush University Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.
Dr. Buvanendran says the SureScan MRI neurostimulator has specially designed leads seen here, making it MRI safe.
It allows doctors to still diagnose the possible patient problems of tomorrow, while taking care of the pain today.
“If you’re able to get him or her back to functionality, it’s huge,” Dr. Buvanendran said.
Susan had the device implanted two weeks ago and is already feeling the difference.
“I’m really glad I did it,” Susan said.
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 relief they can expect for their chronic pain.
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)
Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, Professor, Pain Medicine, Anesthesiology, Rush University Medical Center, talks about a new treatment for chronic back pain.
First, can we talk about the problem with chronic back pain?
Dr. Buvanendran: Chronic back pain is probably one of the common disease states in the U.S. It spans from the middle age population to the elderly and as patients live longer, you have an increase in patient population with chronic back pain. So, back pain apart from it being debilitating, is probably also one of the most common causes why patients don’t go to work in the age. In fact, it is probably the fourth largest cause of pain and disability.