Spinal cord stimulators provide FirstHealth patients with relief from chronic pain

By Staff Report, posted 3 weeks ago
Photo courtesy of FirstHealth

Former firefighter Jolene Hammons lived with chronic back pain and high doses of opioids for more than a decade before she found relief with a spinal cord stimulator.

Hammons decided she wanted a chance at living unmedicated and began working with Rob Thomas, PA-C, at FirstHealth Interventional Pain Medicine in Pinehurst and asked to be taken off opioids. Thomas helped her taper off Duragesic® and agreed that, after Hammons reached one year without fentanyl, she could try a spinal cord stimulator to treat her refractory back and leg pain.

Spinal cord stimulators are small, surgically implanted devices that send low levels of electricity into the spinal cord to help relieve pain. Electrodes are placed between the spinal cord and vertebrae and patients can use a remote control to send electrical impulses to the spine that work to interrupt pain signals before they reach the brain.

Thomas said SCS therapy can be a beneficial option for patients who haven’t experienced improvement with standard treatment, which may include pharmaceuticals, epidural steroid injections, nerve root blocks, radiofrequency ablation and surgery.

“Most of our patients have been put through the conventional medical management cycle without finding relief,” Thomas said in a press release. “A lot of our spinal cord stimulator candidates are classified as failed back surgery syndrome patients. They’ve had surgery and outcomes were not favorable. Other categories of patients that qualify for this therapy include those with post-laminectomy syndrome, non-surgical refractory back pain, painful diabetic neuropathy, arachnoiditis, phantom limb pain and complex regional pain syndrome.”

All patients must complete a spinal cord stimulator trial, which lasts around seven days, before moving forward with implantation. During the trial, small wires are placed into the epidural space and held in place with an anchoring mechanism that hooks the wires to the stimulator battery. The device has a wide variety of different programs and settings, and patients have the chance to test various settings during the trial.

For a trial to be considered successful, Thomas said physicians look for a few key components, including:

A greater than 50 percent reduction in pain 
Increased mobility and the ability to perform daily living activities without usual impairments
Improved sleep
A reduction in pain medication dosage

If the trial is a success, the patient can then have the stimulator implanted. The procedure is typically performed by an orthopedic spine surgeon or a neurosurgeon in an outpatient setting.

Hammons has had a positive experience with the device, which she has used for three years.

Lauren Sylvester Mokris, M.D., an anesthesiologist and pain management physician at FirstHealth Interventional Pain Medicine, said SCS therapy has been a positive addition to the clinic’s variety of innovative techniques.

“We know treatment plans are never one size fits all and it’s important to work with patients’ unique histories and diagnoses to find what is most efficient for them,” Mokris said in a press release. “Our goal is to stop or reduce chronic pain to the greatest extent possible and offering spinal cord stimulation therapy has certainly aided in that mission as one of many possible therapies.”

Ico insights


cape-fear-valley-vascular-specialists dr-thomas-beadle headshott

Tips for Resolving Occupational-Related Vascular Insufficiency

Dr. Thomas Beadle - Vascular Surgeon, Cape Fear Valley - Vascular Specialists
nc-military-business-center erin-ananian-gentile headshott

The Importance of Hiring North Carolina’s Transitioning Servicemembers, Veterans and Family Members

Erin Ananian-Gentile - Federal Business Development, NC Military Business Center
distinctly-fayetteville randy-fiveash headshott

DistiNCtly Fayetteville


In The Current Issue

Computerized Tomography Scanner: Cape Fear Valley Health unveils a new tool for neurosurgeons

Photo provided by Cape Fear Valley HealthNew, cutting-edge technology at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center has made precision in neurosurgery the name of the game.Cape Fear Valley has recently introduced a Airo TruCT scanner, a state-of-the-art game-ch

Leaders sharing their wisdom: Pat Corso shares his experiences building up the Pinehurst area and speaks with the GFBJ about his life after retiring

Pat CorsoPat Corso served as the president of Pinehurst Resort and Country Club for 17 years. After this he started his own business. He and three other people he’d worked with in Pinehurst ran PGA National in Florida and the Mount Washington resort

Leaders sharing their wisdom: Howard Brooks, Founder and former CEO of HealthKeeperz in Pembroke reflects on his life in the Healthcare profession

Howard BrooksThe town of Pembroke, North Carolina is familiar with the name Howard Brooks. For more than 50 years, Mr. Brooks has been serving the healthcare needs of members of the Pembroke community and beyond. The Founder of what is today known as