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Spinal stimulator proves to be game changer in easing chronic pain

St. Francis Health physician treats patients with new device using Wii, iPhone technology

INDIANAPOLIS – A new motion-sensing neurostimulator is being used successfully to treat patients with chronic pain conditions at Franciscan St. Francis Health.

It’s called the AdaptiveStim™ with RestoreSensor™ stimulation system from Medtronic and is the first of its kind to gain recent Food and Drug Administration approval. The ideal patients are those with chronic back and/or leg pain, who have not been helped by other treatments.

Just as a smart phone “knows” to change its image vertically or horizontally and a Nintendo Wii Fit adjusts to a user’s motion, AdaptiveStim uses an accelerometer to detect a person’s change in position.

Robert Prince MDRobert Prince, M.D., a pain management specialist with St. Francis Medical Group Spine Specialists, is the first physician in Central Indiana to use the system. So far, he  has treated about10 patients and  the results have been dramatic.

“There are many patients who have residual pain after multiple spine surgeries, and this therapy can be amazingly successful for them in many cases,” Prince said. “Once the device comes on line the pain goes off line. They are the happiest patients I treat because they thought all hope was lost.”

Chronic pain – defined as ongoing pain lasting for more than three to six months – is said to afflict more than 116 million Americans. For many, such pain is so severe it interferes with working, eating and overall quality of life.

Physicians have been using neurostimulation therapy to treat patient for three decades. It uses an implantable device (about the size of a pacemaker) to send electrical impulses through the spinal cord and squelch pain signals to the brain. Essentially it tricks the brain into translating pain as a tingling sensation.

While effective for the most part, such therapy has its drawbacks. Patients must use a remote control type of device and manually adjust them with each distinctive movement. Also, the implants have a battery life from three to seven years.

AdaptiveStim stores the stimulation level a patient has chosen when standing, lying down, upright and active, bending and stretching.

“Essentially, this technology learns from a person’s movements and immediately responds by automatically adjusting pain-relief settings to the optimal level,” said Prince, who is board-certified in both pain and anesthesia and trained at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Prince implants the device in a minimally invasive outpatient setting. AdaptiveStim with RestoreSensor is tested before the procedure gets under way. A small incision is made for placement of the device, and tiny electrodes are carefully placed in the spinal column.

The patient is sent home with a remote control device to adjust pain-blocking remedies for all motions, all of which is recorded and stored. When the patient returns to Prince’s office a few weeks later, the sensor recording device is fine-tuned and adjusted. In most cases, a remote control is no longer needed.

AdaptiveStim is rechargeable and can last up to nine years, Medtronic officials say.

One of the other advantages of this pain-blocking stimulator is that it is a drugless therapy; thereby not requiring prescription narcotics, which are highly addictive.

To learn more about Prince’s work visit St. Francis Medical Group Spine Specialists.

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