Nerve Root Stimulation May Help Back Pain More
Before receiving the device, most patients rated their pain as an 8 on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the worst. For most patients, the device reduced pain by 33 percent, which was significant, the researchers reported.
In addition, patients said they experienced a 27 percent reduction in disability or limitations on daily activities caused by pain. In all, 94 percent of the participants said the treatment was beneficial.
The procedure was not without complications. Five patients needed to have the wires implanted again, two patients had them removed because they were infected, and one had the device removed because of a complication.
McCarthy said the therapy is not widely available, even though it was approved by the FDA in 2016. At the moment, its use is confined to more advanced medical centers where doctors have been trained in how to implant and regulate the device.
Also, the procedure isn't covered by all insurance companies, so out-of-pocket costs to patients can be very high. It is, however, covered by Medicare, he said.
For uninsured patients, the cost of having spine stimulation devices can range from $15,000 to $50,000 or more, according to a 2008 report funded by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Spine stimulation is usually approved only after patients have not responded to other treatment, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield. Other insurance companies may have varying policies.
McCarthy hopes that more doctors will be trained in the procedure and that it will become more available, especially because it has the potential to allow patients to stop taking opioids to control their pain.
One pain specialist not involved with the study saw the benefits of this procedure.
"The results of this study are very significant," said Dr. Kiran Patel, director of neurosurgical pain at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
It shows long-term data that patients experienced significant pain relief and functional improvements, she said.
"In my pain practice and career, dorsal root ganglion stimulation therapy has been one of the most effective technologies available to combat chronic pain," Patel said.
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