“There is nothing more we can do to help you” was the last thing Jane Rendueles wanted to hear. After countless visits to the doctor, and 3 different specialists, Jane was devastated – thinking she would have to live with this pain for the rest of her life.
Earlier in the year, Jane had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which is a degenerative disease that causes a narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal cord. In lumbar stenosis, the spinal nerves in the lower back become compressed and this can produce symptoms of sciatica—tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks and legs—especially with activity. Some people are born with a congenital form, but most develop degenerative spinal stenosis with age. While few do not feel any effects of the narrowing, most people will eventually notice radiating pain, weakness, and/or numbness secondary to the compression of the nerves or spinal cord.
Jane’s pain had started 2 years earlier when she began feeling this tingling which radiated down her leg. This pain increasingly got worse, to the point where her physician started her on a daily regimen of pain medication. But her pain continued to worsen, and the medication left her feeling drowsy, limiting her activity.
I cannot be in bed all day, Jane said, I have things to do!
Wanting to avoid pain medications, Jane tried steroid injections. These injections provided some relief, but the relief was only temporary. Seeking a more permanent solution to her pain, Jane consulted with a Spine Surgeon. Unfortunately, she was deemed too risky for surgery. “What are my alternatives?” asked Jane. “You have tried all that we can offer you. There is nothing more we can do to help you”.
Jane Rendueles is not your average 76-year-old and would not accept this prognosis. She is a grandmother to two young boys, active in church as part of their women’s group and choir, and an independent Avon Sales Representative. So, when she picked up the newspaper and read the story of a local woman who “finally found relief after 6 years of pain” with a spinal cord stimulator implant, she decided immediately that she had to learn more.
Jane called Garden State Medical Center and was seen a few days later by the Medical Director, Dr. Dharam Mann. After completing a history, physical exam, and series of on-site diagnostic tests, Dr. Mann confirmed that Jane was indeed a candidate for the spinal cord stimulator (SCS) trial.
“A spinal cord stimulator is an implantable system that delivers electrical impulses to nerves in the spinal cord,” says Dr. Mann. “These impulses are able to mask pain signals before they reach the brain. The device is proven to provide significant long term pain relief and reduce or eliminate the need for pain medications. As an intervention for chronic back and/or leg pain, spinal cord stimulation can be an effective alternative or adjunct treatment to other therapies that have failed to manage pain on their own.”
A temporary spinal cord stimulator trialed with Mrs. Rendueles at Garden State Medical Center’s out-patient surgery center as the first step to confirm a successful response. During this trial, a wire is placed next to the nerves in the back through a needle. This wire is connected to a small device (smaller than credit card, and as thick as a cell phone) and this device is worn outside the body for a few days to gauge results.
I could not believe it. Once the device was turned on my pain immediately stopped, said Jane.
The results were very encouraging and a permanent device implanted a few weeks later. The procedure itself is minimally-invasive, requiring just a few stitches and no cutting of bone, ligaments or tendons. That means there is no hospital stay, as patients are discharged from the out-patient surgery center within an hour and then require no post-op rehabilitation.
I have had my stimulator implant for 3 weeks now and I am 100% pain free, Jane says. I cannot say enough, I am so pleased I decided to try this.
While 100% pain relief is not typical, studies show after 6 months 48% of patients achieve ≥50% leg pain relief.