'Life-changing' results from spinal pain relief trial


IRISH PATIENTS taking part in a trial for a revolutionary new pain relief device have reported very positive results to date, a major spinal pain conference heard last week.

Some 80 patients with chronic back pain are taking part in a trial at St Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, for Nevro, an implantable spinal cord stimulation device. It uses neuromodulation technology, which harnesses the body’s own nervous system to control its pain experience and provide pain relief.

Dr Declan O’Keeffe, consultant in pain medicine in St Vincent’s Hospital, said the device had been “life changing” for many of his patients who had experienced failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS). He explained FBSS was seen as an incurable chronic condition with conventional treatment of pain medication and physiotherapy only successful for about one in 10 patients.

“One of the big developments in medicine now is we are moving away from using drugs only and using medical devices to treat pain,” Dr O Keeffe said. He added that while the Dublin trial was ongoing, the results to date were in line with a published Nevro trial that showed 75 per cent of participating patients with back pain experienced more than 50 per cent relief while 90 per cent of those with leg pain experienced a 50 per cent reduction in pain.

Ireland was the first country to use the Nevro device commercially with doctors from other countries coming here to be trained on its usage, and it is now in use in 14 other countries, Dr O’Keeffe said.

The three-day Dublin conference on the diagnosis and treatment of spinal pain featured some of the world’s leading experts in the field who discussed the latest medical breakthroughs for patients with chronic back pain.

Prof Elliot Krames, a US leader in the field of pain medicine and neuromodulation, gave an update on the latest minimally invasive surgical techniques for spinal issues. The new surgery has a much higher success rate than traditional back surgery and is far more precise and accurate with less pain and scarring.

An update on the Prime (Prevalence, Impact and Cost of Chronic Pain in Ireland) study by Dr Brian McGuire, co-director of the Centre for Pain Research at NUI, Galway, found the lower back was the most common site of chronic pain. People who experience chronic pain are five times more likely to have clinically relevant depression and three times more likely to be unemployed.

The study researchers estimate the total cost of chronic pain in Ireland is €4.76 billion a year, and they are now recruiting 140 early stage back pain sufferers across the western seaboard to take part in a pilot pain disability prevention programme to be delivered by HSE clinical psychologists.