According to the American Spinal Decompression Association, more than 80% of us experience lower back pain in our lives, from 20-30% suffering at any time. A study by Duke University reported annual $26 billion cost of treatment and care directly attributed to back pain. Back pain doesn’t usually just go away either, with studies showing that without treatment up to 75% of back pain persists 12 months or longer after it started. So clearly back pain is common, costly, and it usually lasts a long time, particularly without treatment.
Last year we looked at an implantable high-frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) system from Nevro that at the time had launched an IPO and was awaiting FDA approval, which they received in May 2015.
Nuvectra Corporation was formed by GreatBatch, Inc. to support Algovita SCS, the company’s broad spectrum SCS implant system. This new device recently received FDA approval for chronic pain of the trunk, back, and legs. Algovita comprises a charging system, a handheld remote, and one or more implantable rechargeable stimulators, also called implanted pulse generators, that are insulated wire leads that transmit the stimulation pulse to the spinal cord. The remote is used to adjust stimulation levels and monitor battery levels. One, two, or three leads can be implanted, depending on the patient’s needs. SCS systems work by masking or overriding pain signals with what many experience as a slight tingling so they don’t feel the pain. If a physician decides an SCS system is appropriate, there is usually a trial period with the device worn outside the skin with the lead or leads inserted near the spinal cord. If the technology is effective, the device can then be implanted. The advantage of the remote and Algovita’s broad spectrum frequency selection, according to Nuvectra, is that the physician and patient can experiment with various frequencies and intensities to determine which combinations are most effective.
Neurostimulation is effective for many patients. I used an external unit for short periods to manage pain signals after two shoulder surgeries and found I was able to cut way back on pain medication when I used the stim unit. The increasing availability of SCS devices for back pain sufferers promises the hope of pain relief for many.