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Format: 04/23/2014
Format: 04/23/2014

News

New Device Yields Lasting Relief for Patients with Lower Back Sacroiliac Nerve Pain

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

Debra Painter managed to maintain an active lifestyle for 20 years despite chronic lower back pain from degenerative disc disease. But a car accident two years ago jarred her sacroiliac joint, bringing her pain to a new level.

The pain kept her from doing essential household tasks, grocery shopping and even enjoying time with her family.

“I would go to work, go home and take pain pills, and go to bed. That was my life,” Ms. Painter said. “My husband and I have been very avid motorcycle riders for as long as we’ve been married and it was to the point where he was thinking of selling our motorcycle after 34 years.”

Thanks to a new technology being used at West Penn Hospital, many patients like Ms. Painter, who have sacroiliac joint dysfunction, can live without pain for years at a time.

Physicians at West Penn Hospital’s Institute for Pain Medicine recently began performing rhizotomy – a procedure that deadens the nerve branches surrounding the sacroiliac joint–using the Simplicity III needle. Developed by NeuroTherm, Simplicity III is flexible and curved to uniquely conform to the shape of the joint, making it easier for the physician to deliver radiofrequency energy and disable the nerve endings there.

The straight needle physicians typically used for rhizotomy often cannot reach all areas of the sacroiliac joint, required physicians to treat the joint in phases, using a gradual, patchwork approach to try to eliminate all the nerve sensation.

“We’ve been experimenting with a mix of conservative treatments and surgical approaches for years and it’s been difficult to achieve lasting results for patients with sacroiliac joint dysfunction,” said A. Jack Kabazie, MD, Medical Director, The Institute for Pain Medicine at West Penn Hospital.

Rhizotomy is an outpatient procedure that takes 30-45 minutes in the operating room under IV sedation. While nerve sensation can return over time, this procedure should provide relief for several years. It can then be repeated if necessary, according to Dr. Kabazie.

“Rhizotomy performed with this new technology has consistently provided substantial, lasting relief for patients who have endured years of suffering. We’ve treated a number of patients with outstanding results.”

Dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint, located between the sacrum, at the base of the spine, and the ilium of the pelvis, is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Women tend to be affected by it more often then men, as hormones that help the pelvis stretch during childbirth also stretch the sacroiliac joint. Genetic predisposition, body mechanics, discrepancy in leg length, previous hip surgeries, falls or injuries also can cause pain in the sacroiliac joint.
Ms. Painter, 53, of Adrian, tried a variety of therapies for her chronic pain, including medication, physical therapy and nerve blocks procedures, without relief. She underwent three rhizotomy procedures with a conventional needle device. Each time, her pain abated, but the relief never lasted long.

In March, she underwent a fourth rhizotomy at West Penn using the new Simplicity device and the outcome was significantly better.

“It improved my life100 percent,” she said. “I’ve been off pain pills since March and have had no back pain, period, for four months.”

She now can complete her duties as manager of Notary Express in Kittanning without discomfort and once again push a cart through the grocery store. Most importantly, she just enjoyed a weekend trek to a motorcycle rally in West Virginia with her husband.

“All the things I couldn’t do a year ago, I can do now,” she said. “I would recommend this to anybody.”
 

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