Newly Approved FDA Therapy For Chronic Intractable Pain Brings Life Changing Relief to Patients at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Sonoran Pain Management
Dr. Minesh Zaveri Only Doctor in Phoenix to Provide ‘Last-Chance’ Pain Management Therapy
Patients suffering from lifelong chronic pain, especially those who have been told that no other pain management tools exist to provide relief, now have a new treatment option at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Sonoran Pain Management.
Newly approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a neurostimulation device for chronic pain therapy allows doctors to target their efforts using electricity to change the way the brain perceives pain. The device, known as the St. Jude Medical Axium™ Neurostimulator System for dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation, was used by pain management specialist, Dr. Minesh Zaveri , medical director at St. Luke’s Medical Center and Sonoran Pain Management, to treat a 64-year-old patient of Phoenix, Ariz. suffering from Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome.
“For the first time, we have a device that gives physicians the ability to effectively provide pain relief to wide array of patients with neuropathic conditions that are otherwise underserved by traditional pain management options including prescription medications i.e. opiods as well as surgery,” said Dr. Zaveri.
Chronic pain, moderate to severe pain that persists for one or more months longer than would generally be expected for recovery to a specific disease, injury or surgery, is a largely under-treated and misunderstood condition.
According to the Institute of Medicine, chronic pain affects more than 100 million Americans, an incidence rate which outpaces heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. Research suggests that, in total, the condition costs the American population an estimated 515 million workdays annually and generates upwards of 40 million visits to physicians each year both at a combined a cost of approximately $100 billion per year, as estimated by The American Pain Foundation.
Unlike traditional neurostimulation devices, the St. Jude Medical Axium system targets the DRG, a spinal structure densely populated with sensory nerves that transmit information to the brain via the spinal cord.
This first-of-its-kind device delivers a form of spinal stimulation that can target specific areas of the body where pain occurs. In many cases, DRG provides significant pain relief to a target pain area, without causing a patient to feel a paresthesia/tingling sensation associated with traditional neurostimulation. If the patient does experience a light tingle, it is usually confined to the local area.
Previously, common treatments included prescription painkillers and traditional spinal cord stimulators, which are implanted devices that send electrical pulses to the spinal cord to interrupt the pain signals’ pathways by delivering low intensity electrical pulses to trigger selective nerve fibers along the spinal cord. Researchers theorize that stimulating these nerve fibers diminishes or blocks the intensity of the pain message being transmitted to the brain, replacing feelings of pain with a more pleasant tingling sensation called paresthesia.
“As the only hospital in Phoenix offering the St. Jude Medical Axium system, St. Luke’s Medical Center is offering thousands of Arizonans a game-changing treatment,” said Zaveri. “Vickie Dietz is a shining example of how well the DRG stimulation works to improve pain levels and increase function through patients’ daily lives and routines.”
For Dietz, living with chronic pain meant living a life of agony. She was prescribed significant amounts of Percocet as well as other medications which only gave side effects without significant reduction in pain or increase in function. She saw multiple providers prior who thought only medications were an option. She and Dr. Zaveri saw the DRG implant as a last resort to manage her debilitating chronic pain. Despite a total knee replacement in 2014, Dietz’s pain has continued to get progressively worse. In fact, after the knee replacement and months of physical therapy, the pain and accompanying symptoms continued to worsen to the point where she developed intense tightening, muscle hardness and extreme heat in the area, which would become unbearable. Many days, Dietz’s resting pain on a scale of 0 to 10, sat at an 8 or 9.
“It’s hard to explain the level of pain I felt day-in, day-out. Even common things like walking through the grocery store or having a bed sheet brush up against my knee in bed would be excruciating,” said Dietz.
The turnaround came during her trial evaluation period, in which she was fitted with a temporary device that worked like an implanted system, but could be removed. She was able to determine the level of pain relief she would feel with a permanently implanted system. During the first three days of the evaluation, she noticed a 60-70 percent improvement in pain level. By the last four days, she reported 100 percent relief.
“The results were unbelievable,” said Dietz. “I couldn’t remember the last time I didn’t feel pain or have a “fever” in my knee. I finally felt normal and knew I needed to move forward with a permanent implant.”
After Dietz’s surgery to place a permanent implant on Aug. 25, her pain has not only significantly subsided, but her mobility has significantly improved, as has the heat and hardening she felt. In fact, the pain that was at an 8 or 9 is now at a pain level 2. Given that full surgical recovery takes approximately six weeks, Zaveri is optimistic that her prognosis will only improve as she continues her recovery and begins enjoying aspects of her daily life that she has had to put on hold due to chronic pain.
Long term data from the ACCURATE clinical trial have shown significantly more patients receiving DRG stimulation achieved meaningful pain relief and greater treatment success when compared to patients receiving traditional SCS (74.2 percent vs. 53 percent). Study findings also demonstrated patients receiving DRG stimulation reported no differences in paresthesia (tingling) intensity due to changes in body position (known as postural effects) when compared to traditional SCS. After 12-months, nearly all patients receiving DRG stimulation reported better stimulation targeting in their area of pain without extraneous paresthesia than patients receiving traditional SCS (94.5 percent vs. 61.2 percent).
For more information about Dr. Zaveri’s use of the Axium Neurostimulator System for chronic pain management, patients can call 602-795-PAIN (7246) or visit sonoranpain.com.