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Boston Scientific’s Spinal Cord Stimulator System Restores Quality of Life

Posted: June 18, 2013 6:23 p.m.
Updated: June 18, 2013 6:23 p.m.
A Boston Scientific employee manufactures the Precision Spectra Implant at its Valencia office. Photo courtesy Boston Scientific. A Boston Scientific employee manufactures the Precision Spectra Implant at its Valencia office. Photo courtesy Boston Scientific.
A Boston Scientific employee manufactures the Precision Spectra Implant at its Valencia office. Photo courtesy Boston Scientific.

Former Navy SEAL and Army Special Operations member, Richard Holt ofVentura, was one of more than 26 million Americans suffering from chronic back pain until one of his doctors recommended he take advantage of Boston Scientific’s spinal cord stimulator innovation – the Precision Spectra Implant.

Injuring his back during a secret ops mission in 1962, Holt, who stands at 6’2” and weighs some 200-plus pounds, suffered from chronic back pain for decades.

Pain had taken over his life. Doctors treated Holt with epidurals and increasing amounts of morphine. No longer able to enjoy his hobbies, such as woodworking, and barely able to walk for more than a block, his primary activity in life was reduced to going to a doctor’s office.

“The implant has changed the way I live,” Holt said. “I call it a Godsend.”

The annual economic cost of chronic pain in the United States is estimated to be $100 billion, including healthcare expenses, lost income, and lost productivity at work and at home, according to the National Institute of Health.

A survey conducted for the American Academy of Pain Medicine concluded that more than half of chronic pain sufferers felt they had little control over their pain; 60 percent reported experiencing breakthrough pain one or more times daily, severely impacting their quality of life.

Holt was one of those statistics as a result of a covert mission he conducted during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

“President Kennedy wanted a report on what kind of missilesCubahad, and their reach,” Holt said. “All he had were pictures taken from fast moving aircraft.”

Holt’s team of seven men parachuted intoCubathree different times during pitch-black nights.

On the third entry, Holt hit a barn and broke his back. The fracture eventually healed but the damage to his spinal cord was irreparable.

Told surgery might do more harm than good; Holt suffered from increasing pain over the decades – which affected his back, legs and feet.

Boston Scientific launched the first rechargeable spinal cord stimulator in 2004. Many people who turn to spinal cord stimulation have had multiple surgeries, failed surgeries or exhausted all other options, said Maulik Nanavaty, PhD and president of the Neuromodulation business unit at Santa Clarita’s Boston Scientific.

After seven years of study, the biomedical company has now launched a brand new version of the original system that puts the control over managing pain in the hands of the doctors and patients who use the device, Nanavaty said.

“The best part is, it gets the patients off the meds,” he said.

Spinal cord stimulators deliver electrical impulses from an implantable system to mask the pain that travels to the brain - overriding the signals, he said.

A non-invasive technique, a simple set of wire leads are merely placed near the spinal cord, Holt said. With an external control device, he and the doctor experiment with how he responds to treatment and make adjustments accordingly.

Once both knew what was working, the wires were then implanted under the skin, and fastened to the spine, without performing surgery on the spine, he said. A pulse-generator was also implanted, which can be programmed externally to send pain-relieving impulses to where pain is felt by the patient. Patients are also given a wireless external remote control device to make adjustments as necessary.

Holt, who has only had the device since the first of March 2013, is already nearly pain-free and a strong advocated for Boston Scientific’s Precision Spectra Implant.

“It’s fabulous,” Holt said. “I’ve had a full night’s sleep and walked longer distances than ever before. This has changed my entire life.”

The re-engineered Precision Spectra Implant has 32 lead wire contacts, each of which can be individually controlled, and up to four ports for adding leads, giving a doctor the maximum flexibility when treating a patient, Nanavaty said. The new system allows the doctor to make adjustments to target areas where pain is felt; it allows doctors to customize the system to each patient.

Flexibility built into the system ensures patients have options to become fully comfortable by getting the right amount of pain relief, to the right areas. After a few months, the patients become very self-sufficient at managing their own pain, he said.

And the system replaces chronic, overriding pain in a patient with a pleasing tingling feeling, Nanavaty said. It “radically changes how they live and how productive they can be when they return to society.”

“I am able to do things now that I have never been able to do,” Holt said.

His pain specialist, Dr. Robert Frey ofVentura, first recommended Holt consider Boston Scientific’s pain-relieving device. Referring Holt to neurosurgeon Dr. David Westra, also ofVentura, Holt underwent the procedure and said his pain is now barely noticeable.

“I would marry Dr. Westra if I didn’t already have a wife,” Holt said.

Patients all ask why they hadn’t heard of this innovation before, Nanavaty said. And Holt, who describes the treatment as “quite simple,” wants to know why it wasn’t invented decades ago now that he feels so good and had begun to resume a normal life.

“It’s an amazing team in Santa Clarita,” Nanavaty said. “The team has a large amount of passion because of how we affect people’s lives. It’s so gratifying at the end of the day.”


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