Lawton doctor using new technology to fight opioid addiction

Stimulator

LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) - A Lawton doctor is using new technology that he says will eliminate the need for painkillers.

It’s called the StimWave Freedom SCS System, and it’s actually pretty simple. A stimulator is implanted on your spinal cord, accompanied by a remote allowing you to turn it on or off. When it’s on, it scrambles pain signals that are carried from the nerves to the brain, eliminating the need for opioids.

Just a few weeks ago, Alice Uva was using morphine to treat back, hip and leg pain.

"I’m sort of like a zombie. I’d sit and just stare. My head felt like it was on a big balloon just floating around,” Uva said. “I couldn’t remember my name half the time. I remember I had an insurance guy call one time on the phone and we were talking and he asked my name and I sat there thinking what’s my name. I had to grab an envelope that had my name on it.”

But that all changed when Dr. Rich implanted a stimulator on her spinal cord.

"What we do is implant the leads into the spinal cord just like when someone has an epidural or epidural injection. We implant those leads and then we use the technology to send a signal, or what’s called a wave form, to try to scramble that coming in. We’re not blocking a nerve or a motor nerve that would decrease strength, but we’re sort of scrambling the pain signals that come in,” Dr. Rich said.

Dr. Rich said in the past year, he’s implanted well over 100 of these stimulators in his patients and has seen great results.

"They’ve done this therapy and they’ve done well, to the point where they’re just using neuromodulation. That’s nice for obvious reasons. There’s no opioids there,” Dr. Rich said.

And it’s giving patients like Uva a new lease on life.

"I can see years ahead of me now, whereas before I was writing my will out and telling everybody where it was going to be kept so when I kicked the bucket, they’d know what to do. I was ready to go. But I’m not now, I’ve got more years. Lots more years to go,” Uva said.

Dr. Rich said the technology has undergone rapid innovation over the last 5 to 10 years, but so far it has not caught on mainstream. The procedure to implant the device is covered under Medicare and most forms of insurance.

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