New spinal device relieves pain

The FDA recently approved a new device that could help some people cope with chronic pain without using prescription pain killers. It's a small, implantable spinal nerve stimulator.
Minor leg surgery sidelined Connie Hanafy with crippling pain. Steroid shots, seizure medications, nerve blocks, and physical therapy did not bring relief. Because of her own family history of addiction, Connie refused  prescription painkillers.

The pain was so unbearable, the single mother of 2 considered amputating her leg. Then, she learned about  a spinal stimulator that zaps pain.

Connie decided on surgery to implant the device in her back. She was sedated, but awake to give doctors real-time feedback so the stimulator wires can be placed in  the right spot on her spine.

Spinal nerve stimulators use electrical pulses to block the pain signal to the brain. They've   been used for decades, but previous models were bulky and need frequent charging. This summer, the FDA approved the smallest implantable device --about the size of a pacemaker .

Youssef  Josephson is one of the first doctors trained to treat patients with Medtronic's new implant. He said most patients will report at least a 50 percent reduction in pain.

Two weeks after surgery, Connie's pain has dropped from level 9 to 2.

This implant does carry risks, like bleeding and infection.   

Spinal cord stimulators are not appropriate for every kind of pain. They are best for people with back and limb pain, who may have failed back or disc surgery, and other conditions.


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