Second Chances

New spinal cord stimulator works when first try didn’t.

Helen Pelisari, a native of Pittsburgh, has been living in Florida for the past 20 years. Helen is now retired after working various careers, mostly in office administration. She’s happy to be out of the day-to-day grind of the business world, but retirement came with its own discomfort.

Dr. Harold Cordner of Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian and Vero Beach treats Helen Pelisari’s back pain with a new-generation spinal cord stimulator. AP topic: Spinal Cord Stimulator

For Helen, daily chores, like shopping, are possible again.

“I’ve had back issues for the last fifteen years or so,” notes Helen. “A cause could never be determined other than perhaps stenosis and a little bit of arthritis. Nothing could be pinpointed as far as an accident or a fall, just the deteriorating conditions.”

As these conditions got worse, Helen’s back issues became increasingly debilitating. She found herself changing her daily lifestyle to accommodate the restrictions enforced by her aching back.

“I was having pain and difficulty walking,” she describes. “The pain was just there. I was aware of it, but it wasn’t a stabbing or sharp pain. It was an aggravating, nagging sort of pain that was constant. I compare it to a bad toothache.

“It kept me from activities and day-to-day living such as doing chores in the house and shopping. My quality of life was not what it should have been.”

In her quest to find relief, Helen tried many treatment options with little success. She even endured surgery, looking to find a reprieve from the nagging pain.

“I went through all the modalities, including chiropractic, acupuncture and injections, and then I finally had back surgery five years ago,” she confirms. “However, the surgery did not correct the problem, and I continued to have the aggravating pain and the difficulties with my day-to-day chores.”

Back at square one, Helen was urged to visit a pain management specialist. She chose Harold J. Cordner, MD, who is board certified in pain management and anesthesiology and practices at Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian and Vero Beach.

“When Helen came to see us, she’d had back and neck surgery that failed to bring her relief from her symptoms,” describes Dr. Cordner. “She underwent several procedures, including epidural injections, nerve blocks and radiofrequency ablations. She also tried opiate pain medications, but nothing helped. That’s when we turned to spinal cord stimulation.”

“Dr. Cordner tried several treatments that we hoped would alleviate the pain,” adds Helen. “But nothing worked. My last option was a spinal cord stimulator.”

A spinal cord stimulator is a small device implanted under the skin. It sends gentle electric waves to impede pain nerve impulses in the spine to manage chronic pain.

Facing such a big decision, Helen was especially grateful for the time Dr. Cordner took to educate her about spinal cord stimulators. She was comforted by his knowledge, his openness and his honesty with her.

“Dr. Cordner was wonderful,” she states. “He explained the procedure to me in great detail. He also described all the stimulator options that were available and helped me make an educated decision. I was more than happy with his help, and his advice was right on the dot.”

New stimulator

The last year has seen great advances in spinal cord stimulation technology, notes Dr. Cordner. A new generation of stimulator, called the Nevro Senza® system, uses much higher frequencies than conventional stimulators. The frequency is 10,000 Hz or 10,000 cycles per second (HF 10), where conventional stimulation may be in the range of 40-90 Hz. This provides a different experience and superior results.

“With conventional stimulation, patients feel what we call paresthesias, which are massaging, tingling sensations,” explains Dr. Cordner. “With the HF10, they don’t feel any paresthesia. They don’t feel anything at all, so when they turn on the stimulator, they don’t notice anything other than the pain is gone. Most people prefer that.”

Dr. Cordner also notes that in the past, spinal cord stimulator manufacturers have focused on improving the hardware, such as creating a better or smaller battery. In the last year or so, the focus has shifted onto perfecting the electronic waves produced by the stimulators.

“We’re now finding different waveforms of spinal cord stimulation,” says Dr. Cordner. “For example, there are burst waveforms that mimic the natural firing of pain nerves better than tonic stimulation, which is what is done by conventional stimulators. With new technologies such as HF10’s higher frequencies, new burst waveforms, and dorsal root ganglion stimulation, the pain relief success rates are much better than with conventional stimulation.

“For those who have tried spinal cord stimulation in the past that wasn’t successful, these new waveforms offer another opportunity,” reports Dr. Cordner. “Their chances of success are about fifty percent greater. Overall, the success rates for providing pain relief are eighty to ninety percent. Insurance companies, including Medicare, are now allowing patients to undergo a second stimulator trial because HF10 has been proven by clinical studies to be a different and superior therapy.”Dr. Harold Cordner of Florida Pain Management Associates in Sebastian and Vero Beach treats Helen Pelisari’s back pain with a new-generation spinal cord stimulator. AP topic: Spinal Cord Stimulator

Relief at last

“All other treatments and procedures available to us were unsuccessful in relieving Helen’s pain,” says Dr. Cordner. “Helen finally found relief with the Nevro Senza spinal cord stimulator trial, which gave her ninety-five percent relief.  With the success of the trial, the device was permanently implanted.”

“The spinal cord stimulator Dr. Cordner implanted made a huge difference,” agrees Helen. “There are no side effects. The HF10 is wonderful. I’ve been very happy with the results.”

The results for Helen include a significant decrease in her chronic, aggravating pain. With the relief she gets with her stimulator, Helen has been able to get back to her activities. Her household chores are no longer a problem, and she’s even started an exercise program.

“My pain level on a scale of one to ten, ten being the highest, is a three, if even that,” she shares. “The stimulator has controlled most of the pain; it has been a godsend to me.

“I am now doing physical therapy exercises to strengthen my muscles. My quality of life is improved, and that’s what I hoped for.”

After trying virtually every treatment option available, Helen has finally found a therapy that works for her. She’s grateful for Dr. Cordner and his advice about the Nevro Senza stimulator. Both have made a big impact on her life.

“As far as the results of the stimulator, I would say they are excellent,” says Helen. “Dr. Cordner is excellent also. I would recommend him with no hesitation. I would also recommend the spinal cord stimulator after the person consults with a doctor and determines it’s right for him or her.

“I certainly would suggest it if people’s quality of life is such that they can’t do anything but sit and try to deal with the pain. I was fortunate I found my alternative with Dr. Cordner and this particular spinal cord stimulator. It returned me to a quality of life that I’m happy with.”

FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo by Jordan Pysz. Graphic courtesy of Florida Pain Management.
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