Eva's Spinal Cord Stimulation StoryHear from others who have struggled along a pain journey and see how they found relief.
This story recounts the experience of a patient who is receiving Medtronic neurostimulation therapy (also known as spinal cord stimulation) for the treatment of chronic pain. Medtronic invited him/her to share his/her story candidly. Please bear in mind that the experiences are specific to this particular person.
Eva's Spinal Cord Stimulation Story
Eva was at home, climbing the stairs with a basket of laundry. When she reached the landing, she felt a pop in her back before her left leg gave out and she fell backward down the stairs. She broke her pelvis in three places and herniated two discs in her lower back. Eva was transported by ambulance to the hospital, where she stayed for 10 days before returning home for 15 months of bed rest. During that time, Eva saw several doctors but they could not offer relief.
"It was such a hard time," Eva recalls. "I needed help to get out of bed, to go to the bathroom, to wash my hair, and get dressed."
Coping with excruciating pain
Eva's pain was in the lower left side of her back and radiated down into her buttocks, her left leg, and left foot.
"The pain was so excruciating that it's hard to put it into words," she says. "Sometimes it was a stabbing pain and other times it was a constant driven pain."
Eva lost her job as a laboratory technologist because of her situation. She missed many of her sons' high school activities, and could only be mobile with crutches or a cane. After seeing many doctors and having many tests, she was told she'd have to live with the pain. During this time, Eva tried different treatments to find relief. She took pain medications that took the edge off the pain, but they made her feel groggy.
"The medications really hindered my mind to the point where I couldn't participate in my kids' homework or give them any other kind of help," she says. "When I look back, I wasn't much of a mom back then because I was so drugged up to control the terrible pain. I could hardly stand it." Eva also tried physical therapy and steroid injections, but nothing helped the pain. Eva's doctor in Mankato, Minn., referred her to a pain clinic in the Twin Cities. Percocet and Neurontin were prescribed, but the pain persisted.
"The pain never got better or moved," Eva says. "It was the exact same pain, all the time."
Discovering neurostimulation therapy
The physicians at the pain clinic thought Eva would be a good candidate for neurostimulation therapy.
Eva began receiving spinal cord stimulation with AdaptiveStim™ technology in August 2010 as part of an FDA-approved clinical study. AdaptiveStim™ technology, available only from Medtronic, automatically adjusts stimulation with a change in position. When Eva moves from sitting or standing to lying down or to upright and active (e.g. walking), the device remembers the preferred stimulation programmed for that position and applies it. As a result, she doesn't have to adjust amplitude as frequently and changing positions is more comfortable, when compared to conventional stimulation.
Risks of neurostimulation therapy
Eva did not experience any complications with her surgery. However, some people do experience surgical complications such as infection, pain at the site of surgery, or bleeding into the epidural space. Once the neurostimulation system is implanted, device complications may occur and include jolting, leads breaking, or movement of the leads within the epidural space, which may require reprogramming or surgical replacement of the leads. These events may result in uncomfortable stimulation or loss of therapy.
“My family sees a huge difference in me”
Neurostimulation therapy has been a positive experience for Eva. "Now I can walk and put weight on my left leg. I still have pain, but it's nothing like what I had to endure before," Eva says. "The pain is probably a 2 or a 3 on a daily basis," on a scale of 1 to 10 with 0 indicating no pain and 10 indicating worst pain possible.
Since her neurostimulation system was implanted, Eva doesn't need prescribed medication to help control her pain. At times she takes an over-the-counter medication like acetaminophen. Twice last year she had breakthrough pain, and in those situations she took a dose of Percocet.
The AdaptiveStim feature on her neurostimulator helps keep Eva comfortable. "I love AdaptiveStim," she says. "It's all preset at different stimulation levels when I am sitting or lying down. It even boosts up the stimulation when I'm exercising so I'm comfortable during my workout and afterward."
She appreciates AdaptiveStim technology's responsiveness. "AdaptiveStim is immediate. It responds right away to my position. It just works!" Every 10 days, Eva recharges her neurostimulator battery.
Eva has gone back to school to study graphic design and multimedia. "I'm very grateful that I have an opportunity to experience AdaptiveStim technology. My family sees a huge difference in me. I can do things again. I can stand up and have a regular life."