According to Good Health in today’s Daily Mail there is a new technique now available for back pain. A new spinal cord stimulator implant which is implanted beside the vertebrae in the spine in the epidural space and the vertebral wall is connected to a battery pack that produces a small electrical field, which blocks pain signals to the brain.
Initially, two wires, each with eight electrodes attached, are implanted, guided by x-ray and aligned with a nerve ending. They are then connected to an external battery to stimulate the wires to check it works for the patient. The programmes are personalised for specific pain areas.
The patient uses the device for one to two weeks and is reviewed twice in that time to see if the machine works for them. If they report at least a 50 percent improvement in pain then a small battery pack the size of a pacemaker is inserted through an incision in your buttocks, and connected to the wires. Around 80 percent of patients who have the device inserted on a trial basis go ahead with the full implant, a Dr Serge Nikolic ( based at NHS Pain Clinic at Barts Health Trust in London) said.
Patients are then given an external zapper to control the device and the stimulation’s intensity.The machine operates continuously and batteries can last ten years or longer and can be replaced with a simple procedure. Dr Nikolic said that it is for people who have severe chronic pain that limits their daily activity and has already tried all conservative therapies, (that’s me for sure).
A review of randomised controlled trials, published by the University of Saskatchewan, Canada in 2014, concluded the safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation were well established in treating chronic pain associated with failed back surgery.
However, not all patients with back pain are suitable for this device including those with uncorrected bulging discs or deformities. The cost is also a big factor as it costs around £35,000 for the surgery and the device if done privately, but a much cheaper price on the NHS. It concluded that it is purely a funding issue as to whether your local NHS will fund the surgery with a waiting list of two years or more and with some NHS hospitals not even offering the procedure.