KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A Blue Springs, Mo. man had chest pain so severe that a half-dozen pain pills a day couldn't stop it. Electrical stimulation, the same kind used for back pain, is now giving Kevin Webber some relief.
It was hard for Webber to walk -- hard to do much of anything because he'd have intense, squeezing chest pain. It resulted from heart damage linked to years of inhaling smoke as a firefighter.
"It was pretty much excruciating almost every day," said Webber.
Webber saw Dr. Talal Khan, a pain specialist at the University of Kansas Hospital. Dr. Khan recommended Webber get an implanted neurostimulator.
Two wires containing electrodes were placed in the neck. Webber was awake during the procedure so the doctor could be sure the electrodes were positioned to stimulate the right nerves before they reach the spinal cord.
"And what that does, it changes the way he perceives the sensation from one of pain to a mild tingling," said Dr. Khan.
The wires were connected to the device that was implanted in Webber's upper buttock. He has a remote control.
"You can turn this thing up enough you feel like you're plugged into the wall," said Webber, laughing.
He had the procedure in late January, and now?
"I've gone from four or five Vicodin a day. I've taken two in the last two days," said Webber.
He's hoping he'll be able to move more.
"Hopefully lose this weight. That's my biggest goal," he said.
It's a goal that's reasonable when you don't have a heart attack-like feeling in your chest.
The neurostimulator isn't FDA-approved for chest pain. But doctors can implant it for that at their discretion. It's called an off-label use.