High-frequency spinal cord stimulator found to relieve back pain after other treatments failed.
Back pain is responsible for disability and daily misery in many Americans’ lives, but a new treatment offers hope.
Researchers in North Carolina found that treating people who had chronic back pain with a new kind of spinal stimulator called HF10 resulted in a lasting reduction of back and leg pain.
Spinal cord stimulators (SCS) have been around since the 1960s. The treatment consists of a device that is implanted near the spine that sends electrical impulses to nearby nerves.
Spinal cord stimulators are similar in some ways to heart pacemakers, but the focus is on treating chronic pain. The HF10 uses a higher frequency than previous SCS models.
Lead author Leonardo Kapural, MD, PhD, and his colleagues studied 171 patients with moderate to severe back and leg pain.
Dr. Kapural is a specialist in pain management at the Carolinas Pain Institute and Center for Clinical Research, and a professor of anesthesiology at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Patients in the study had pain that persisted for an average of 14 years. All had been treated at comprehensive pain centers. Close to 90 percent were on opioid pain medications and previously had back surgery.
Patients were divided at random into two groups. The first received traditional SCS applied over relatively long intervals. The second received HF10 SCS applied for very short periods.
All patients used a standard pain score to communicate pain levels.
More than 80 percent of patients in the HF10 group reported their pain scores decreased by at least half, three months after the procedure. Patients on standard SCS reported similar scores for back pain, but in only 44 percent of patients.
In terms of the actual pain scores, patients using HF10 reported an average decrease of five points on a zero to 10 scale, while those with standard SCS reported an average drop of three points. Pain scores remained low two years after treatment.
Research on conventional SCS found it tends to be more effective for leg than back pain. The HF10 treatment seems to be more effective for back pain.
The authors plan to study the use of HF10 for other chronic pain conditions.
The study was published in the October issue of Neurosurgery.
The study did not receive outside funding.
Several authors reported receiving grants or personal fees from Medtronic, which makes SCS devices, and from Nevro, which makes the HF10 SCS. These included Dr. Kapural, Dr. Cong Yu, Bradford E. Gliner, Dr. Ricardo Vallejo and Dr. Kasra Amirdelfan.