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A year-long chronic pain study reviewing the effects of high-frequency spinal cord stimulation (SCS), conducted in Waltham, Mass., by Boston PainCare, has found a significant drop in reduction of opioid dosage among patients suffering from lower back and lower extremity pain.

The study reviewed opioid medication use one year after implant of SCS electrodes in 32 patients compared with 64 conventional medical management (CMM) patients used as a control group.

Reduced Opioid Doses

Over 70 percent of the SCS group a year after the trial began reported using lower doses of opioid medication to manage their pain. Numerical pain scores were also significantly lower.

About 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetime

“The 26.2 mg morphine equivalent dose reduction represents a 28 percent reduction from baseline, with 71.4 percent of those prescribed opioids in the SCS group reducing their dose at 12 months post-implant,” the study said.

Lower Pain Scores

“Among those with SCS, there were significant within-group reductions in numerical pain score for low back and lower extremity pain, reducing by 46.2 percent and 50.9 percent from baseline respectively,” the study found.

The study, led by Boston PainCare medical director David DiBenedetto, MD, noted that neither the CMM group nor the SCS group experienced a significant change in functional pain scores although “Both groups had significant within-group reduction in disability.”

Treatment Options

Nonetheless, “treatment options for chronic back pain were frustratingly limited prior to the introduction of high-frequency neuromodulation,” Pain Medicine News quoted Dr. DiBenedetto as saying.

How much of a game-changer high-frequency neuromodulation might be in the field of chronic pain management and lower back pain treatment is dependent on study results, market perceptions and demand.

Demand Is There

The demand is there. About 80 percent of adults suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes, notes the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In addition, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others point to the critical need for pain treatment options that don’t threaten people with the risk of addiction or overdose.

The Price We Pay

In the United States, there were more than 63,500 drug overdoses in 2016 with nearly two-thirds of them related to prescription or illicit opioid use, says the CDC. In 2017, the number of overdoses climbed above 70,000 with the fastest climb in death rates related to opioid drug use.

Clinical decisions are made on an as-needed, case-by-case basis. The option for chronic pain mitigation through technology, rather than chemicals, is gathering momentum, finding more uses, more success and more ethical mandates in recent years.