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Physician Helps Patients Eliminate Chronic Pain at Press of a Button|
ARLINGTON, Texas — After suffering from chronic pain for more than 10 years, Wes Woodworth never imagined he’d be able to one day eliminate his excruciating back and leg pain at the press of a button.
“Now I can walk and jog a couple of miles each day or even mow the grass,” said 37-year-old Woodworth. “My quality of life has increased tremendously. Instead of constant pain, I feel a relaxing, tingling sensation along my back and in my legs. I never thought it would be possible, but I’m back to doing things I could only do years ago.”
Last month, Dr. Vivek Mehta, medical director of pain management at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and physician on the medical staff, became the first physician in Arlington to use new technology. It allows physicians to pinpoint and customize pain transmitters from 150,000 possible points along the spinal cord, and help patients manage chronic pain.
The Precision Spectra spinal cord stimulator uses 32 lead wire contacts to expand the level of coverage across the spinal cord. Other devices typically use 16 lead wires.
“Spinal cord stimulation has been around since the 1970s, but this non-invasive procedure allows the physician and the patient to collaborate and address the areas of chronic pain throughout the body,” Mehta said. “Using a hand-held remote, similar to a cell phone, the patient pushes a button that sends electrical impulses to nerve fibers along the spinal cord, which in turn, masks the pain messages delivered to the brain.”
During a minimally-invasive outpatient procedure, the physician places 32 wires directly under the skin, attaching them to the spine. A pulse generator is also implanted near the patient’s left or right hip. The wireless, hand-held remote control allows the patient to adjust the levels of the electrical impulses, depending on his or her degree of pain.
According to a report by the Institute of Medicine, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain. Without relief, many individuals find it hard to sleep, work and function on a daily basis. That equates to a cost close to $600 billion a year in medical care and lost productivity. Woodworth’s chronic pain cost him his job in the military.
A Navy veteran, Woodworth served five years while dealing with chronic back and leg pain. “I was scuttling up and down ladders carrying heavy oxygen tanks, and that extra weight only added to the pain and my injuries.”
Along with the chronic back pain, Woodworth was suffering from myositis in his right leg and inguinal nerve damage. In 2005, Woodworth was honorably discharged, but still battling excruciating pain.
“To help with my pain management, I used to take high doses of all kinds of pain medication,” Woodworth said. “But last year, Dr. Mehta became my physician and helped give me my life back; he’s a godsend in my eyes. I don’t know where I’d be without him or this implant.”
Mehta’s goal is to eventually wean Woodworth off of his medication completely. Before the procedure, he took high doses of several prescribed pain medications. According to Woodworth, his dosage is extremely low, thanks to the spinal cord stimulator. “I used to walk around like a zombie — not anymore.”
Spinal cord stimulation may be appropriate for patients with chronic pain in the back or lower limbs, those suffering from neuropathy, or patients suffering from back pain after one or more spinal surgeries.
To learn more about Texas Health Arlington Memorial’s back and spine care services, visit TexasHealth.org/Arlington-Neuro.
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For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.
Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.