Technology for chronic pain compatible with MRI

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014


An estimated 100 million Americans are affected by chronic pain. Many patients with chronic, intractable back and/or limb pain often get relief from neurostimulation, also called spinal cord stimulation, or SCS.

A proven therapy that has been available since the 1980s, neurostimulation therapy has many benefits for patients, including decreased pain and medication usage, as well as improvement in function.

Neurostimulation works by blocking pain messages before they reach the brain. The size of a stopwatch, a neurostimulator transmits mild electrical signals to an area near the spine through thin wires called leads.

The electrical signals cause a tingling sensation in the area of the chronic pain. The strength and area of stimulation are controlled by the patient with a small, handheld device.

Unfortunately, patients receiving neurostimulation therapy for chronic pain historically have been forced to forego MRIs.

This is because of concerns over the effects that the powerful magnetic fields and radio frequency energy generated by MRI machines have on the neurostimulator.

However, thanks to recent innovations in technology, patients with neurostimulators can safely undergo an MRI scan when needed.

Now, a neurostimulation system has been specially designed to reduce or eliminate the hazards produced by the MRI environment.

In addition, a feature sets the device into an appropriate mode for the MRI environment and allows the imaging team to confirm that a patient’s neurotransmitter is safe for an MIR environment, providing an extra level of security for the patient.

This is an important advancement in detection and diagnosis for people with neurostimulation systems, particularly because the very patients who have these systems are often the ones who may need an MRI scan.

MRIs have become a standard of care in the detection and treatment of serious medical conditions, including cancer, stroke and a variety of orthopedic and neurologic conditions.

They allow physicians to make a wide range of health diagnoses by viewing highly detailed images of internal organs, blood vessels, muscle, joints, tumors, areas of infection and more.

We are pleased that NextStep Pain Management in Murrells Inlet is one of the first in the area to offer this new neurostimulation therapy system, which is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Dr. Channing Willoughby is a physician specializing in anesthesiology and pain management with NextStep Pain management in Murrells Inlet.


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