Monday, December 14, 2009 | Categories: Dr. Brian's Blog |
WCBA's show Saturday and today at 1130 am (3:30 pm NT) on CBC Radio One generated some reaction from people who either have chronic pain or know someone burdened by it. There were many pleas for more information about implantable neurostimulators. It's a treatment that Adrienne Luksic said relieved her pain tremendously.
Adrienne developed chronic pain due to nerve damage that came as a result of surgery for breast cancer. She tried numerous forms of treatment, including pills, physiotherapy and acupuncture. None worked. But then, she heard about an implanted neurostimulator and decided to give it a try.
WCBA does not endorse treatments such as these. However, since many of you asked for more information, we thought we'd oblige.
The treatment is often referred to as a spinal cord stimulator. It's a portable device that emits an electrical current that has electrodes that are implanted surgically into the spine in the space that surrounds the spinal cord. The patient controls the device, which can be worn on a belt.
Most often, spinal cord stimulators are given to people with chronic pain following back surgery and to people with pain caused by nerve damage or disease. There are substantial downsides to this form of treatment. In one study, nearly one in five patients had complications from the surgery, including infections, bleeding at the site at which the electrodes are inserted, as well as nerve and even spinal cord damage. Sometimes, the operation itself can cause pain.
Spinal cord stimulators are expensive, often costing tens of thousands of dollars up front for the device itself and for the operation needed to implant it. However, proponents point out that the cost of the surgery is offset by savings in prescription drugs that are no longer needed to treat pain.
These devices are implanted by neurosurgeons. If you are interested, ask your family doctor for more information.