What Kinds Of Surgical Procedures Are Commonly Used To Treat Pain?

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Question: What Kinds Of Surgical Procedures Are Commonly Used To Treat Pain?

Answer: Fundamentally, we can even consider things like an appendectomy to treat pain, or a herniorrhaphy to treat pain, or many other types of surgery. But I think what we're really looking for here are treatments for pain that becomes debilitating and chronic for many patients. So, the things that I like to talk about are spinal cord stimulation; a technique that's been evolving over the last 40 years. A technique where we can either place a electrode through a needle that goes into the epidural space, the same area that, for instance, a woman would have an epidural for childbirth pains. This makes it a very easy way to introduce these technologies. Another way to do this is surgically through a very small window, that a surgeon would create in the back of the spine to place this device. Either way, stimulating the spinal cord for many conditions such as failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, or any kind of nerve pain syndrome that affects the extremities could be a useful way to be treated -- spinal stimulation.

The second thing to think about peripheral nerve stimulation, and peripheral nerve stimulators are working along the same concepts of stimulating the nerves so that we don't have to cut them or excise them in some way or injure the nerves. We're trying to just to improve their normal function. Things like this might include, oh for instance, a carpal tunnel surgery, if you had failed to get better after two or three of those, and the medications weren't helping, and you still had ongoing pain. One could actually place an electrical stimulating electrode right next to that nerve and stimulate it, and that may actually be analgesic or pain-controlling for you.

So these are the sorts of things that we're doing nowadays. Stimulating the spinal cord, stimulating peripheral nerves, and trying to treat these ongoing pain syndromes that, again, have just basically resisted all other therapies that have been applied in the past.

Next: What Are Some Of The Dangers Of The Types Of Surgery Used To Treat Pain?

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PHOTO: Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison attend the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Inaugural Gala presented by Salvatore Ferragamo at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 17, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Stefanie Keenan/Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts/Getty Images for Wallis Annenber