Chronic pain | A device implemented for the first time in Canada

A neurosurgeon from the Hôpital de l'Enfant-Jésus in Quebec recently became the first in Canada to implant a new pain management device, offering new hope for relief, particularly to patients suffering from chronic pain.

The Eterna system for spinal cord stimulation (SCS), developed by the giant Abbott, was implanted in mid-February by Doctor Michel Prud'homme to a young woman in her sixties.

“If you have pain in a foot, it's still your brain saying it's in the foot and not the hand,” Doctor Prud'homme explained. The goal of spinal cord stimulation is to intercept and confuse a pain signal in order to reduce this pain transmission. »

The devices used for SCS consist of thin wires placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae and a small implant in the lower back that helps interrupt pain signals before they reach the brain.

This implant, said Dr. Prud'homme, is “exactly” like a pacemaker, except that it is “hidden in the lumbar area, where we have a small pocket of fat.”

“We always have a little bit of fat under the skin, so we hide it there and there's nothing you can see,” he explained.

Everything is controlled through an application installed on the patient's phone.

Abbott’s BurstDR stimulation “mimics the brain’s natural stimulus patterns to provide relief […] Pain, in contrast to classic tonic stimulation,” we assured in a press release.

In other words, the new device sends out electrical pulses one after the other rather than transmitting a single continuous pulse, which contributes to patient comfort.

“Instead of constant stimulation, we deliver stimulation in small, continuous bursts so that patients don't really feel the stimulation at that point, but still feel relief,” explained Dr. Prud'man.

Such neurostimulation is not suitable for the treatment of acute pain, said Dr. Prud'homme. But with pain that lasts for several months, “we see that there is a reorganization of the nervous system, which means the pain persists, so we have to try to maximize therapy.”

“And one of the options is spinal cord stimulation,” he said.

Intervention within two years of the onset of pain is ideal, he added, as this maximizes the chance of improving the patient's outcome.

The Eterna pacemaker is about a third smaller than its predecessor and only requires charging five to seven times a year, compared to the previous model's recommended almost daily charging. This represents significant benefits for patients, said Dr. Prud'homme.

Enfant Jésus Hospital is one of Canada's leaders in chronic pain treatment, he said. The patients he treats often report persistent pain, which they rate as a 7 or 8 on a scale of 0 to 10, where “0” means complete freedom from pain and “10” means pain so severe that one loses consciousness can lose.

A neurostimulation system could reduce their pain by about half, Dr. said. Prud'homme, and significantly reduce the amount of medication needed.

“The patient who was the first (to receive the new device) reported that her pain had decreased by 70 or 80%,” he concluded. That's a huge difference. It allows him to go about his activities and then stop thinking about his pain and focus on something else. There are effects not only on the level of pain, but on all aspects of quality of life, sleep, physical activities, social relationships…”

It is estimated that around one in five people in Quebec suffer from chronic pain.

Jordan Johnson

Award-winning entrepreneur. Baconaholic. Food advocate. Wannabe beer maven. Twitter ninja.

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