The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

May 8, 2013

Sensor turns back pain into heartbeat vibration

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

DANVILLE — A remote-controlled sensor has helped reduce a 74-year old Elysburg man’s back pain when spinal surgery could not.

Four years ago, Deno Langis learned that a pair of discs was compressing his spinal column, making it difficult for the avid bicyclist to partake in any physical activity, even walking.

After an initial surgery and follow-up, involving physical therapy and cortisone injections, did little to help, an alternative was suggested. Dr. Kaylan Subbiah Krishnan, of the Geisinger Interventional Pain Center, recommended a spinal cord stimulator, surgically implanted under the skin and connected directly to the spinal column. Langis agreed to give it a try. “I went into this not expecting perfection,” he said.

“In general the studies have shown the stimulator comes out ahead every time as opposed to reoperation on the back,” said Krishnan. The surgery, which Krishnan said he has performed about 350 times in the last 16 years, usually rates higher in terms of pain relief, patient satisfaction and affordability in comparison to a second operation on a patient’s spine.

The stimulator functions by blocking pain traffic that would normally originate in the compressed discs in Langis’ back. The feeling of excessive pain is replaced with a heartbeat-like sensation. The remote can be used to increase or decrease the strength of the sensation.

“The brain will feel this instead of the pain traffic. It replaces pain impulses with this,” said Krishnan.

However, the implant comes with the recommendation that the patient also partake in regular physical therapy to strengthen their muscles.

“There are those who get the stimulator and do not exercise…they are not trying to help themselves,” said Krishnan.

Without doing exercises, at a certain point replacing the feeling of pain would have become counter-productive as the brain would register the heart-beat sensation with being hurt, said Langis.

Langis does compression exercises and stretches every morning to help further reduce his pain and his reliance on the stimulator. “In the beginning, I used it a lot, during my physical therapy. It helped me do more strenuous things,” he said.

After having the sensor for about two years, though, “I find that I rely on this less and less,” said Langis.  “Sometimes I don’t have it on at all.”

“This has my whole-hearted recommendation so long as people realize it has to be in conjunction with other things,” he said.