Smartphone technology eases chronic pain for Hannibal Regional Medical Group patients

Posted: Dec. 15, 2012 6:33 pm Updated: Jan. 5, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

HANNIBAL Mo. -- There may not be an app to lessen chronic pain, but Hannibal Regional Medical Group has used smartphone technology to help some of its patients.

When chronic pain patients opt for neurostimulation treatments, doctors surgically place a pacemaker-like device at the base of the spine. This pacemaker initiates a stimulus, which distracts the brain from chronic pain.

Dr. Luvell Glanton, interventional pain specialist, said these pacemakers work well, but patients struggled to obtain consistent relief. The patient's pain level would increase depending on if the patient would sit or stand.

"Sometimes it would be too strong, sometimes it would be too weak, kind of like Goldielocks and the porridge," Glanton said.

The device couldn't determine a vertical or horizontal position, but a smartphone could. Just as a smartphone will flip its screen depending on whether the user holds it vertically or horizontally, the Medtronic's AdaptiveStim with RestoreSensor will release different levels of stimuli depending on the body's position.

The FDA approved AdaptiveStim with RestoreSensor nuerostimulation system in November 2011. Since then, Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based company, has implemented it in hospitals throughout the country.

Hannibal Regional Medical Group acquired this new technology less than three months ago. Using these devices, Glanton has increased the convenience level of decreasing pain for four of his patients. He plans to secure 15 more patients with trials or implants by April 2015.

Less sophisticated devices require patients to adjust the simulations with a handheld patient programmer. The new technology initiates relief automatically.

"It was somewhat troublesome, and patients wouldn't necessarily understand how to change it or what they needed to do," Glanton said.

Julie Foster, vice president of and general manager of the Pain and Drug Delivery Therapy Businesses in the Neuromodulation Division at Medtronic, said in a press release that this device will address many of the concerns patients had with the traditional nuerostimulation system.

"It is our intent that this breakthrough technology will help transform pain management and enable people suffering with chronic pain to feel better and get back to their normal actives."

Glanton explained that his patients often describe chronic pain as a consistent stabbing, cutting, searing or burning. This discomfort may prevent routine activities such as preparing a meal, walking up stairs or taking a bath.

Chronic pain affects more than 116 million adults in the United States.