Staying awake during surgery fights pain - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Staying awake during surgery fights pain

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(12/20/13) - Most of us think "heart" when we hear the word "pacemaker", but there is actually a pacemaker for pain. Pain pacemakers have been around for a very long time, but with only limited success.  Now, doctors have found a way to improve the treatment, and it requires patients to be awake during surgery.

"A stabbing pain that just would never go away," Ashlee Lipinski said.

Her mother, Kim, also suffered with chronic pain, "there was so much pain. It was just debilitating."

Mother and daughter both suffering with chronic pain.

Neurosurgeon Giancarlo Barolat  is a pioneer in using pacemakers to help control chronic pain. He has perfected the science of testing the devices while the patient is still awake, during surgery.

He says, then the patients can tell him exactly where the pain is coming from, "they can tell me very precisely where they feel the pain and whether they feel the stimulation."

Kim says there was nothing to it, "I did not remember it whatsoever."

An electrode is implanted on the nerves, or spinal cord, in an area strategically designated to relieve the pain. The electricity that passes through the electrode is generated by a pacemaker implanted under the skin. The patient can adjust the electrical impulses with a remote control.   
The procedure does not cure pain, but has a 50-75-percent chance of providing relief and that is enough for Kim, "I would say mine is 90 percent success."

Dr. Barolat says the pacemaker for pain can also help people with chronic headaches and back pain, who have not responded to conventional treatments.

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