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Back-pain device implanted in first UK patient

A pain-management device developed in the US has been implanted into a patient for the first time in the UK by doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London.

The Medtronic RestoreSensor neurostimulator treats chronic back pain using Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), a process where mild electrical pulses are delivered to the spinal cord to mask the body’s pain signals and replace them with a tingling sensation.

The neurostimulator is claimed to be the first in the world to use motion-sensing technology. It can sense a change in the patient’s body position or activity level and automatically adjust how much pain-relieving stimulation to deliver. For example, if the patient is lying on their back then a lower stimulation will be delivered, but if they are lying on their front then a higher dose will be delivered.

Until now, patients have only been able to use devices that deliver pre-set levels of constant stimulation, which meant they had to frequently change their pain-relief settings manually whenever they changed position or activity. This often led to Spinal Cord Stimulation users experiencing broken sleep due to inadequate pain-relieving stimulation.

Dr Adnan Al-Kaisy, one of the world’s leading pain-management consultants, carried out the first procedure using the Medtronic RestoreSensor. He said: ’This is a very significant improvement on traditional Spinal Cord Stimulation implants because, for the first time, it will automatically increase or reduce the pain relief the patient receives − particularly during the night. I’ve been working in this field for 15 years and this is technology we have always dreamt of.’

Dr Al-Kaisy expects it to be used with some patients who suffer from severe leg or back pain, or post-surgery problems, who have not responded to traditional therapy or medication. ’When successful, it reduces pain by around 80 per cent,’ he said.

Robert Mason, 35, from Berkshire, was one of the first patients to benefit from this new technology. The former agricultural engineer had been forced to give up his job eight years ago after a freak accident at work left him with chronic pain in his back and legs.

After the operation, he said: ’I can now put my children on my lap and read books to them without worrying about it. Before the operation this was very painful, the children had to be very careful and even then I’d probably have to move them off after a couple of minutes.’

Spinal-cord stimulation was approved for use in adults with certain forms of chronic neuropathic pain in October 2008 by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE, TA159). RestoreSensor will now be rolled out nationally, with 25 hospitals expected to offer the service.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Just been reading about spinal cord stimulation. I suffer from chronic back pain and have been treated 2 twice a year with cordal spine injections but my condition is getting worse. My pain doctor has told me the injections I have will make my bones go softer and he could do nothing for me. I'm at my wits end. Would appreciate the names offthe hospitals and consultants who do this operation.

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  • The names of the hospital and the consultant are both in the article.

  • I would also like to know the names of some of the hospitals that are going to be offering this opition. Is Guys going to be the only London hospital ?

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  • A friend told me about this last night I had not heard of it before. I suffer with chronic spinal arthritis and fibromyalgia and would love to try one of those machines and give up on the morphine! I will be having a word with my GP to see if he can get one for me!!!

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