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Health Matters: Implant Helps Patients Fight Pain, Become Active Again

Arkansas doctors begin using new spinal cord stimulation device.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - A new FDA approved device is now helping Arkansans with pain management. The Protégé IPG is made by St. Jude Medical. The device is implanted into the lower back and a small wire is placed in the spine.

The device is controlled by a hand held device giving the person the power to adjust the vibrations. For patients like Steve Moore, it's an alternative to heavy pain medication.

"It's like an electrical pulse sometimes. It will kind of cover the pain up. It will kind of block it out. Some of the programs I got will block out my legs all the way down," says Moore.

Before getting the implant, Moore says the pain was so bad he struggled to walk. Now, he is getting back to his daily activities. Neurosurgeon Dr. Erika Petersen says the device helps to train the brain to deal with pain.

"This uses electrical stimulation rather than medicine to change how the brain perceives pain. A lot of people find that narcotics and other pain medicines interfere with how they want to function during their life," says Dr. Petersen.

For patients like Moore, he says he is finally able to get back to his daily activities.

Here's the full UAMS news release on the implant:
LITTLE ROCK, AR - The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) Erika Petersen, M.D., recently became the first neurosurgeon in Arkansas to implant in a patient the Protégé IPG device, the world’s first and only neurostimulation system that can be updated through software rather than surgery. 

Until now, one of the greatest challenges with spinal cord stimulation therapies has been giving patients access to the latest technologies without surgically replacing their medical device. 

The new technology can access innovative therapies, stimulation modes, diagnostics or other features, as they receive Food and Drug Administration approval through future software upgrades — without the need to surgically replace their medical device.  

Protégé IPG is made by St. Paul, Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical, a medical device company. The FDA in April approved its use in patients. 

Similar in function and appearance to a cardiac pacemaker, the Protégé neurostimulator delivers mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord, which interrupt or mask the pain signals' transmission to the brain. By masking the pain signals, patients who receive neurostimulation may see an overall improved quality of life.  

“I’m going to be able to be active again and do things I had stopped doing because they hurt so much to do,” said Tony Yocom, one of Petersen’s patients who received the device in May. “I walked three miles the other day at a good clip, and it felt great. I could not even feel it.” 

Yocom has painful-legs-moving toes (PLMT) syndrome, an adult-onset rare disorder characterized by pain in the feet or legs associated with writhing movements of one or more toes. 

“Often patients’ chronic pain restricts their day-to-day life and increases their dependence on others for help,” Petersen said. “The pain relief that spinal cord stimulation can offer results from changes in how nerves and the brain process pain without medication side effects. The new Protégé device takes it a step further by providing the ability to upgrade settings as innovations become available. Minimizing the number of surgical procedures improves outcomes like infection rate and mechanical complications.” 

Protégé is the world’s smallest neurostimulator to treat chronic pain of the trunk or limbs and pain from failed back surgery. Patients are encouraged to talk with their physician if they believe they are experiencing chronic pain.  

Chronic pain is a largely under-treated and misunderstood disease that affects more than 1.5 billion people worldwide, according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine. Neurostimulation studies have shown that spinal cord stimulation systems can often reduce pain symptoms by 50 percent or more. By providing significant pain relief, this therapy enables many patients to increase their activity levels and improve their overall quality of life. 

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