PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Scientists have created a small spinal nerve stimulator that’s now FDA approved.
Connie Hanafy had a passion for riding dirt bikes. Then, minor leg surgery sidelined the Deptford mother of two with crippling pain.
Traditional treatments didn’t work and because of her own family history of addiction, Hanafy refused prescription painkillers.
“The pain is constant,” she explained. “It’s shooting. It’s every type of pain you could ever imagine all in one.”
So unbearable, Hanafy considered amputating her leg. Then, she learned about a spinal stimulator that zaps pain.
She decided on surgery to implant the device in her back.
Spinal nerve stimulators use electrical pulses to block the pain signal to the brain. They’ve been used for decades but previous models were bulky and need frequent charging.
This summer, the FDA-approved the smallest implantable device about the size of a pacemaker .
In the recovery room, Hanafy feels a tingling in her leg.
“Most patients will report at least a 50 percent reduction in pain,” Dr. Youssef Josephson, a pain specialist, said.
Two weeks after surgery, Hanafy’s pain has dropped from level nine to two.
“Prescription medication, although it does help people, that’s not the only answer,” Josephson said. “And if that’s not something you wanna do, seek out other options.”
There are some risks like infections linked to the implant.
Doctors say spinal cord stimulators won’t work for all kinds of pain. They’re best for people with back and limb issues who’ve tried and failed with other kinds of treatments.
Doctors say drug-free alternatives like the implant are important options for pain control.