Importance of surgically implanted neurostimulator system in attenuating chronic pain
A novel treatment was done at the Rush University Medical Center, on a 38-year-old Millington, Illinois, patients suffering from chronic pain. Within a minute of beginning a new treatment, the patient's searing pain was reduced to a slight tingle.
The patient suffered from complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, a debilitating condition that can arise when nerves damaged in a trauma or surgery heal improperly, causing them to send nearly constant pain signals to a person's shoulder, feet or hands. He was treated with a surgically implanted electronic device, called the Axium Neurostimulator System, that hinders with these pain signals.
The first physician in the country to offer the treatment was doctor Timothy Lubenow, MD, medical director of the Rush Pain Center, which the U.S. FDA licensed for treating CPRS in the lower limbs of adults in February. Till date, 26 patients have been given this treatment by Lubenow. Five more devices have been implanted by Asokumar Buvanendran, MD, director of orthopedic anesthesia and a professor of anesthesiology at Rush for more promptly targeting and blocking pain.
Since 40 years, the physicians have been managing chronic pain by implanting small devices, called spinal cord stimulators, that send low-intensity electrical pulses to the spinal cord through a series of wires positioned along the vertebrae. These pulses travel faster than the pain signals the human nervous system sends to the brain, specially tricking the brain into originating a tingling sensation rather than the sensation of pain. Unfortunately, spinal cord stimulation has furnished only moderate pain relief for about half the patients who receive it. A 93% of participants described that their level of pain was reduced by at least 50% when the researchers used the Axium Neurostimulator System to send those electrical pulses directly to bundles of nerves immediately adjoining the spinal cord — dorsal root ganglia in a clinical trial. Even better, 70% participants reported 80% pain relief.
The doctors can more accurately target and block pain as the dorsal root ganglia are densely populated with sensory nerves and relay pain signals to and from specific areas of the body. The system is implanted during a surgical procedure while the patient is under general anesthetic and started remotely after the patient regains consciousness.
One of Lubenow's first patients to obtain DRG stimulation treatment was a woman in her mid-40s whose chronic lower leg pain had confined her most days to a wheelchair. As per Lubenow "Four hours after the DRG stimulator was turned on, she was able to walk out of Rush. She is overjoyed."