SHAWNEE, Kan. -- Many people have chronic low back pain or pain that radiates down into the hips and legs. An Independence man is one of the first 20 people to get a new device for pain since it received FDA approval. It's a neurostimulator that provides relief without even causing tingling.
Lee Ward is really looking forward to surgery.
"I am ready. I couldn't get here quick enough," said Ward.
A few weeks ago, Ward received a trial model of a new stimulator to treat his severe hip and leg pain resulting from cartilage deteriorating in his back. His pain had been eight to ten on the scale. With the device, it dropped to zero.
"It tells me it's the most marvelous miracle I've ever had," said Ward.
He then had the trial device removed, and the pain returned.
"It was horrible. It was horrible," Ward said.
At KU MedWest, Ward is becoming the first patient in the metro to get the permanent implant called Senza.
Dr. Dawood Sayed makes a small incision and places two electrodes in the epidural space which is the layer just outside the spinal cord. He makes another incision to implant the battery, which looks like a pacemaker, and he connects the electrodes to it.
"Those electrodes then communicate with the pain fibers in the spinal cord to essentially block out the patient's normal pain," said Dr. Sayed, a pain specialist with the University of Kansas Hospital.
Other stimulators mask a patient's pain by covering the area with tingling. The manufacturer says Senza is different in that it delivers pulses at a higher frequency of 10,000 herz compared to 1,200 or less.
"A frequency so high the patients don't even feel the stimulator. But it's been shown in a recent study that came out that this may be superior to conventional stimulation in certain patients with low back pain," said Dr. Sayed.
He says the study didn't find higher risk with the higher frequency.
Ward is looking forward to the same pain relief with the permanent device that he got with the temporary one.
"I was like a different person," he said.
He could stand and walk pain-free.
Dr. Sayed says it's possible Ward's body will become immune to the stimulation over time although the research showed patients benefited for at least a year.