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Health Team

FDA-approved implant offers drug-free relief from chronic back pain

Posted November 27, 2018 6:47 a.m. EST
Updated November 27, 2018 7:10 a.m. EST

— These are the alarming statistics: Almost 10 million Americans are on long-term use of addictive opioid drugs, and there are over 50,000 deaths every year in the U.S. due to opiate overdose.

Now, a new type of implant could help people with chronic back and leg pain get off or reduce their need for addictive pain relievers.

Eight years ago, Kaci Presgraves, 46, could not walk without pain in one leg and hip -- so she turned to spinal disc surgery.

FDA-approved implant provides opioid-free relief from chronic back

"And that surgery actually led to worse pain," said Presgraves. "I wondered -- is this how I'm going to live for the rest of my life?"

After the failed spinal fusion surgery and a new regimen of opioid pain relievers, Presgraves heard about a new FDA-approved neuro-stimulation implant offered at Duke called HF10.

HF10 sends mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord to calm the nerves.

With the HF10 implant, Duke neurosurgeon Dr. Nandan Lad places wires near the spinal cord. The implanted battery sends signals to target the source of nerve pain -- unlike opioid pain relieving drugs.

Spinal cord stimulation is nothing new, but the standard approach causes a tingling sensation that many patients don't like.

FDA-approved implant provides opioid-free relief from chronic back

"It essentially masks the pain as opposed to trying to block or intercept the pain," said Dr. Lad. "It blocks different receptors at the brain and the spinal cord level with a flooding of the body with that drug."

Of those who used HF10 as recommended by their doctors, 90 percent had significant pain reduction after recovery.

Presgraves said HF10 stopped her pain, but it took time.

"But right at two months on the dot, it just went away," she said. "I went back to work for the first time in two years."

According to Presgraves, getting off opiates was not easy.

"I did have some withdrawal symptoms, but I knew that it wasn't a way that I was going to live my life," she said.

People considering the HF10 implant surgery for chronic back or leg pain should be prepared to go through a trial period with the device.

Treatment involves a minimally invasive procedure to make sure the option will help before the actual implant surgery is offered.