Healthcast: Spinal Stimulator

About 75 percent of all Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, for those with serious, chronic pain, finding relief can be a challenge. A new implantable device is bringing quick relief to patients who have exhausted other options.

For 77-year-old Deanna Conley doing housework makes her happy. A lifetime of back pain used to make this impossible.

"I was 39 when i had my first back surgery," Conley said. "I've had three since then, and two in my neck." 

Despite the surgeries, nothing would relieve the pain and pressure.

"It would get worse and worse and worse and worse until you couldn't stand," she said. "You would have to sit down."

Dr. Michael Bottros recommended a new spinal cord stimulator, a tiny device that delivers electrical pulses to nerves interrupting pain signals. Doctors place the leads in the spine with a small needle.

"With an implant, we'll go ahead and anchor those leads in the area that we want them to be in, and then we'll make another small incision for the battery," Bottros said.

Conley charges the battery at home. 

By placing the charger pad against her back, the stimulator batteries refresh in about 30 minutes. A remote control allows her to adjust the stimulation, if needed.

"I haven't used that walker since the day I got this," she said.

"When you're in pain all the time, it's debilitating," said Sherri Schuette, Conley's daughter. "We have our mom back. It's amazing." 

While spinal cord stimulators have been used to relieve chronic pain for decades, several new versions have been approved by the FDA in the past 18 months. The newly-approved versions no longer create a tingling, or buzzing sensation for the patient.


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