Spinal Cord Stimulators Can Cause Deaths & Injuries


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Washington Post Reports .

Injuries & Deaths from.

Spinal Cord Stimulators

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Excerpts below are from the November 25 report linked above on spinal cord stimulators. Use search function top left for prior several posts on this site:

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…one of the fastest-growing products in the $400 billion medical device industry. Companies and doctors aggressively push them as a safe antidote to the deadly opioid crisis in the U.S. and as a treatment for an aging population in need of chronic pain relief.

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But the stimulators — devices that use electrical currents to block pain signals before they reach the brain — are more dangerous than many patients know, an Associated Press investigation found. They account for the third-highest number of medical device injury reports to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with more than 80,000 incidents flagged since 2008.

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Patients report that they have been shocked or burned or have suffered spinal-cord nerve damage ranging from muscle weakness to paraplegia, FDA data shows. Among the 4,000 types of devices tracked by the FDA, only metal hip replacements and insulin pumps have logged more injury reports.

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The FDA data contains more than 500 reports of people with spinal-cord stimulators who died, but details are scant, making it difficult to determine if the deaths were related to the stimulator or implant surgery.

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Medical device manufacturers insist spinal-cord stimulators are safe — some 60,000 are implanted annually — and doctors who specialize in these surgeries say they have helped reduce pain for many of their patients.

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Most of these devices have been approved by the FDA with little clinical testing, however, and the agency’s data shows that spinal-cord stimulators have a disproportionately higher number of injuries compared to hip implants, which are far more plentiful.

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The AP reported on spinal stimulators as part of a nearly yearlong joint investigation of the global medical devices industry that included NBC, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 50 other media partners around the world. Reporters collected and analyzed millions of medical records, recall notices and other product safety warnings, in addition to interviewing doctors, patients, researchers and company whistleblowers.

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The media partners found that, across all types of medical devices, more than 1.7 million injuries and nearly 83,000 deaths were reported to the FDA over the last decade.

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The investigation also found that the FDA — considered by other countries to be the gold standard in medical device oversight — puts people at risk by pushing devices through an abbreviated approval process, then responds slowly when it comes to forcing companies to correct sometimes life-threatening products.

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Devices are rarely pulled from the market, even when major problems emerge. And the FDA does not disclose how many devices are implanted in the U.S. each year — critical information that could be used to calculate success and failure rates….

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…The four biggest makers of spinal-cord stimulators are Boston Scientific Corp., based in Marlborough, Massachusetts; Medtronic, with headquarters in Ireland and the U.S.; Nevro, in Redwood City, California; and Illinois-based Abbott, which entered the market after its $23.6 billion purchase of St Jude Medical Inc.

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St. Jude’s application to go to market with its first spinal stimulator contained no original patient data and was based on clinical results from other studies, while Boston Scientific’s application for its Precision spinal-cord stimulator was based largely on older data, though it did include a small, original study of 26 patients who were tracked for as little as two weeks.

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Once approved, medical device companies can use countless supplementary requests to alter their products, even when the changes are substantial.

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For example, there have been only six new spinal-cord stimulator devices approved since 1984, with 835 supplemental changes to those devices given the go-ahead through the middle of this year, the AP found. Medtronic alone has been granted 394 supplemental changes to its stimulator since 1984, covering everything from altering the sterilization process to updating the design.

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“It’s kind of the story of FDA’s regulation of devices, where they’re just putting stuff on the market,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Center for Health Research, who has studied medical devices for nearly 30 years.

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….“These patients are guinea pigs,” she said.

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….Dr. Walter J. Koroshetz, director at the neurological disorders and stroke division at the National Institutes of Health, said trials for medical devices like spinal-cord stimulators are generally small and industry-sponsored, with a “substantial” placebo effect.

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“I don’t know of anyone who is happy with spinal-cord technology as it stands,” Koroshetz said. “I think everybody thinks it can be better.”

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….[Jim] Taft’s stimulator failed soon after it was surgically implanted. After an operation to repair it, he said, the device shocked him so many times that he couldn’t sleep and even fell down a flight of stairs. Today, the 45-year-old Taft is virtually paralyzed, a prisoner in his own bed, barely able to get to the bathroom by himself…..

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Taft said his three-day trial helped reduce his pain so, a few days before his surgery, he began preparing for a new life. He ordered lumber to refurbish a patio and deck for his wife, Renee, as thanks for her years of support.

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In April 2014, Boston Scientific’s Precision stimulator was implanted in Taft by Jason Highsmith, a Charleston, South Carolina, neurosurgeon who has received $181,000 from the company over the past five years in the form of consulting fees and payments for travel and entertainment. A Boston Scientific sales representative was in the operating room — a common practice, the AP found.

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Highsmith would not comment on the payments. Other doctors have defended the practice, saying they do important work that helps the companies — and ultimately patients — and deserve to be compensated for their time.

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From the time Taft was cut open and the device placed inside his body, he had nothing but problems, according to hundreds of pages of medical records reviewed by the AP. The device began randomly shocking him, and the battery burned his skin.

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Taft and his wife complained repeatedly, but said his doctors and a Boston Scientific representative told them that spinal-cord stimulators don’t cause the kind of problems he had.

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That runs counter to Boston Scientific’s own literature, which acknowledges that spinal stimulators and the procedures to implant them carry risks, such as the leads moving, overstimulation, paralysis and infections.

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That also is not reflected in the AP’s analysis of FDA injury reports, which found shocking and burning had been reported for all major models of spinal-cord stimulators. For Boston Scientific devices, infection was the most common complaint over the past decade, mentioned in more than 4,000 injury reports.

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In response to questions, the company called infection “unfortunately a risk in any surgical procedure” that the company works hard to avoid. It added that the FDA’s data “shouldn’t be interpreted as a causal sign of a challenge with our device. In fact, many examples of reportable infections include those that were caused by the surgical procedure or post-operative care.”

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“In our internal quality assessments, over 95 percent of the injury reports were temporary or reversible in nature,” the company added.

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Taft said had he known the devices hurt so many people, he would have reconsidered getting one. A Boston Scientific sales representative tried reprogramming the device, he said, but nothing worked.

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“I told them that it feels like the lead is moving up and down my spine,” Taft said. “They said, ‘It can’t move.’” But in July 2014, X-rays revealed the lead indeed had moved — two inches on one side.

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Highsmith told the AP the electrode broke from “vigorous activity,” though Taft said that would not have been possible due to his condition. Taft said he was in such bad shape after his surgery that he was never able to redo the patio and deck for his wife or do anything else vigorous.

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That October, Highsmith said, he operated on Taft to install a new lead, tested the battery and reinserted it.

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Still, Taft’s medical records show that he continued to report numbness, tingling and pain. During a January 2015 appointment, a physician assistant wrote that the device “seemed to make his pain worse.”

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The stimulator was surgically removed in August 2015. The following June, Taft got a second opinion from a clinic that specializes in spinal injuries, which said he had “significant axial and low back pain due to implantation and explantation” of the stimulator.

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Highsmith said other doctors have documented severe arthritis in Taft and that, while he has not examined Taft in more than three years, it’s “likely his current condition is the result of disease progression and other factors.”

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He did not answer questions about whether he informed Taft of the risks associated with stimulators.

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The doctor said the overwhelming majority of his spinal-cord stimulator patients gain significant pain relief.

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“Unfortunately, in spite of the major medical breakthroughs with devices like these, some patients still suffer from intractable pain,” he said.

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Renee Taft, a paralegal, reached out to Boston Scientific in 2017, but said the company refused to help because her husband’s stimulator had been removed and blamed Taft for his problems, also saying he had engaged in “rigorous physical activity” after surgery.

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In the letter from the company’s legal department, Boston Scientific also noted that federal law shielded manufacturers from personal liability claims involving medical devices approved by the FDA.

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In response to questions from the AP, Boston Scientific again blamed Taft’s “activity level” but didn’t elaborate. The company also said other factors could contribute to his problems such as “hyperalgesia, a phenomenon associated with long-term opioid use which results in patients becoming increasingly sensitive to some stimuli.”

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Brenda Simpson-Davis of Milton, Florida, said Boston Scientific also disregarded her complaints after her husband suffered a life-threatening infection following implant surgery.

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George Davis, 57, had three Medtronic spinal-cord implants between 2003 and 2007 after a car accident mangled his back. They temporarily reduced some of his pain, but he said the non-rechargeable batteries that were supposed to last for years never did and he tired of multiple surgical removals.

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In 2015, his pain management doctor urged him to try Boston Scientific’s Precision Spectra, which he called the best on the market. Unlike Davis’s old models, it had a rechargeable battery.

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Within weeks of his surgery, Davis said, he started feeling pain shooting down his back and legs and a burning sensation at the implant site. After his skin started turning black, the doctor performed emergency surgery to remove the device.

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Months later, Davis reluctantly agreed when his doctor urged him to try another Boston Scientific model but found that device even worse.

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Over the next year, he spent more than 100 days in and out of hospitals battling a life-threatening infection. Today, Davis says he has trouble getting out of bed.

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Boston Scientific said it never received the stimulators that were implanted in Taft and Davis so could not “conclusively identify” the causes of their problems. “Numerous factors can contribute to a patient’s ongoing symptoms, from increased physical activity to the onset of pain in other areas,” the company said.

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Simpson-Davis said she spoke with attorneys around the country, who warned her about the high bar set for a lawsuit . Finally, she found a Texas lawyer who said he will consider taking the case if she can find another two dozen potential plaintiffs.

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“To me, it’s not about the money, It’s about the people. It’s about them knowing what they’re getting themselves into,” she said.

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For years, Valerie McJunkin had been seeking relief from a rare neurological disorder that made her legs and feet feel like they were on fire. So when a medical device company sales representative and her West Virginia pain management doctor recommended what sounded to her like a “miracle device,” she was all in.

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They said a new kind of stimulator — one that targeted a bundle of sensory nerve cells in the lower back — was better than a spinal-cord device. She just needed to undergo a weeklong trial.

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When McJunkin showed up at the pain clinic this January for the trial, the Abbott sales representative was there, along with her doctor and his staff. They explained every detail. This device wasn’t for everyone, but she was the perfect candidate, she recalled them saying.

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Over the next week, they called or texted her nearly every day to see if the stimulator was easing her torment. And since the trial did seem to help, she went ahead with the implant.

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Within days, though, the device began randomly shocking her — a sharp pain that felt like a lightning bolt.

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When McJunkin called her doctor and the Abbott representative, she said they suggested that she was at fault because “stimulators don’t do that.” It wasn’t until she received a certified letter from Abbott in March that she learned it wasn’t all in her head: The company said her device was being recalled due to a glitch that could cause patients some “discomfort.”

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Since 2005, there have been 50 recalls involving spinal stimulators, averaging about four per year in the last five years. Roughly half the recalls involved stimulators made by Medtronic, the world’s largest device manufacturer, though none warned of a risk of serious injury or death.

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In early September, McJunkin invited an AP reporter to accompany her when she met with her doctor and the company sales representative to request the device be removed.

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The Abbott salesman and her doctor both suggested she get another stimulator, saying she had run out of options, especially since her doctor couldn’t write prescriptions for opioids because of a government crackdown. If she didn’t get another stimulator, he said, she faced a lifetime of pain. He did not suggest other options, such as steroid shots or continued physical therapy.

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“I’m not trying to force your mind,” the doctor said. “But for me, would I want to live my life like this?… If I get that new battery and it totally helps, that changes my life 180 degrees, right? But if I don’t I already know what’s going to happen to me: I’ll be suffering for the rest of my life.”

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On the drive home to Martinsburg, West Virginia, McJunkin gripped the steering wheel of her car, her tattoo reading “persevere” visible on her forearm.

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“You trust your doctor. You think he’s going to do the right thing,” she said. She paused, fighting back tears. “I just wanted to live without pain. But now that hope is gone.”

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In late October, her doctor removed the device.

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The experience of nearly all the 40 patients interviewed by the AP mirrored McJunkin’s: Their pain was reduced during the trial but returned once their stimulators were implanted.

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Experts say the answer may be a placebo effect created when expectations are built up during the trial that only the stimulator can offer relief from pain, exacerbated by patients not wanting to disappoint family members, who often have been serving as their caregivers.

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“If patients know this is a last resort, a last hope, of course they will respond well,” said Dr. Michael Gofeld, a Toronto-based anesthesiologist and pain management specialist who has studied and implanted spinal-cord stimulators in both the U.S. and Canada.

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By the time the trial ends, the patient is “flying high, the endorphin levels are high,” Gofeld said.

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Manufacturer representatives are heavily involved during the entire process. Along with often being in the operating room during surgery in case the physician has questions, they meet with patients to program the devices in the weeks following surgery.

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Most of the patients interviewed by the AP said the adjustments to their devices were performed by sales representatives, often with no doctor or nurse present. That includes one patient who was billed for programming as if the doctor was in the room, though he was not.

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“People who are selling the device should not be in charge of maintenance,” Gofeld said. “It’s totally unethical.”

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In a 2015 Texas case, a former Medtronic sales representative filed suit contending she was fired after complaining that the company trained employees to program neurostimulators without physicians present. She also claimed that a Medtronic supervisor snatched surgical gloves away from her when she refused to bandage a patient during a procedure, pushed her aside and then cleaned and dressed the patient’s wound. Medtronic denied the allegations, and the case was settled on undisclosed terms.

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In the Justice Department case involving Medtronic, a salesman who said he earned as much as $600,000 a year selling spinal-cord stimulators claimed sales representatives encouraged physicians to perform unnecessary procedures that drove up the costs for Medicare and other federal health programs.

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“While there have been a few instances where individuals or affiliates did not comply with Medtronic’s policies, we acted to remedy the situation in each case once discovered and to correct any misconduct,” the company said.

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Gofeld said he believes stimulators do work, but that many of the problems usually arise when doctors don’t choose appropriate candidates. And he thinks the stimulators are used too often in the U.S.

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Nevro, one of the four big manufacturers, has cited estimates that there are as many as 4,400 facilities in the U.S where spinal-stimulation devices are implanted by a variety of physicians, including neurosurgeons, psychiatrists and pain specialists.

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It’s a lucrative business . Analysts say stimulators and the surgery to implant them costs between $32,000 and $50,000, with the device itself constituting $20,000 to $25,000 of that amount. If surgery is performed in a hospital, the patient usually stays overnight, and the hospital charges a facility fee for obtaining the device. Costs are typically covered by insurance.

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The AP found that doctors can make more money if they perform the surgery at physician-owned outpatient surgery centers, since the doctor buys the device, marks it up and adds on the facility fee.

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In Canada, where Gofeld now works, he said the surgeries are done only by those who specialize in the procedures. He said spinal-cord stimulators should be used when pain starts and not after failed back surgeries.

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“By then,” he said, “it’s too late.”

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While manufacturers and top FDA officials tout stimulators as a weapon in the battle against opioids, neurosurgeons like Steven Falowski are the front-line evangelists.

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“Chronic pain is one of the largest health-care burdens we have in the U.S. It’s more than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined,” Falowski said in an interview.

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He referred AP to Corby, as one of his surgical patients who was helped by a spinal-cord stimulator.

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Corby got the device more than two years ago and says that, after some initial adjustments, he hasn’t had any further problems. He says he wouldn’t trade the stimulator for opioids.

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“I was actually buying them on the street … a little like a druggie because I couldn’t get them anymore” from his pain doctor, Corby said.

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Falowski said opioids are good for acute pain, but were never meant to treat long-term chronic pain. For him, that’s where spinal-cord stimulators come in.

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If they’re used early enough for pain, they can prevent people from going on opium-based pain killers, said Falowski, who speaks at neuromodulation conferences and teaches other doctors how to implant stimulators.

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Since 2013, device manufacturers have paid Falowski — or St. Luke’s University Health Network in Fountain Hill, Pennsylvania, where he works — nearly $863,000, including $611,000 from St. Jude or its new parent company, Abbott, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services database. The payments range from consulting fees to travel and entertainment expenses.

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.….Another of Falowski’s patients was Lisa Snyder of Kempton, Pennsylvania, who was searching for relief from a painful nerve disorder. By the time she came to Falowski, she had cycled through three spinal-cord stimulators, which were removed for reasons ranging from infection to rejection.

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“Not everybody could do it, but he was confident he could,” she said.

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After her fourth implant this March, “I complained about this battery right away. I knew it was positioned funny. It burned,” Snyder said.

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AP’s analysis showed Abbott products were more likely than other major models to include reports of a hot or burning sensation near the site of the battery, with about 5,600 injury reports since 2008 referring to the words “heat” or “burn.”

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Abbott said that many of the “adverse events” reports in the FDA’s data stemmed from a device that was voluntarily recalled in 2011. The company added that feeling a temperature increase at the implant site “is often a reality for rechargeable spinal-cord stimulation systems,” which is why the company is now concentrating on devices that do not need to be recharged.

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….Snyder said she felt like Falowski’s nurse and physician assistant downplayed the problems and that the reprogramming of her device was conducted by the Abbott sales representative, with no medical staff present. On at least one occasion, she was charged as if the medical staff was there, when she said they weren’t, according to insurance bills reviewed by the AP.

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.Despite insisting nothing was wrong with the unit, Snyder said, Falowski called her one day out of the blue. “He said ‘Under no circumstances are you to turn it on.’ I asked him why and he wouldn’t say,” Snyder recalled..Falowski then scheduled immediate surgery to remove the stimulator, she said..Falowski called Snyder a difficult patient and said she was receiving “100 percent pain relief” when she had the stimulator removed, adding that she “remained very appreciative of her care.” He added that programming is “performed under the direction of a physician.”.“The physician is not present during the entire programming session, but provides oversight and direction..

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…The only time programming sessions are billed is when the physician is actively seeing the patient during a visit which was the case with this patient,” he said..

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.All Snyder ever wanted was to feel better. Today, she often is immobilized by pain..Before the latest stimulator, she could walk, stand and cook meals. Now, she finds it hard to get out of bed and rarely leaves her house. She says the device has ruined her life....

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“My fear is I’ll be like this forever,” she said...

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal cord stimulators: ~ 10% are good candidates. Pulling out more than putting in


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PainWeek 2018 has a series of conferences in different cities. This weekend 10/13-10/14, it was in San Diego teaching pain management. Thank those who funded this 2 day program for doctors and healthcare providers to bring us up to date in the field.

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Anesthesiology pain specialist Michael Bottros, MD, Associate Chief of the Division of Pain Medicine, Washington University St. Louis, made a comment on spinal cord stimulators:

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They are pulling out more than they are putting in. Only 10% are good candidates.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulators, Advances? A Revolution? How about a lot more research first?


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The new issue of Practical Pain Management has a lead article on Spinal Cord Stimulators, stressing early treatment, a revolution using “new [and] different patterns of electric stimulation.” Advances?

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I don’t have the energy or time to compare these new claims with the information just posted on this site from the International Association for the Study of Pain that details existing evidence with the decades of claims by these companies and abysmal lack of research. Perhaps they could set aside some of the billions in profit they use for PR and give us good research data.

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Chronic pain would make any of us vulnerable to risk our lives for these devices. Research is desperately needed. Here are the new claims:

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Recent Advances

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Ivano Dones, MD, and Vincenzo Levi, MD, of the Functional Neurosurgery Department at the Carlo Besta Neurological Institute in Milan, Italy, highlight “an ongoing revolution” in the treatment of neuropathic pain using “new [and] different patterns of electric stimulation.”3

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Conventional SCS stimulation employs a tonic waveform in which electrical pulses are delivered at a constant frequency, pulse width, and amplitude. It has been found effective for approximately 50% of neuropathic pain patients.4 To help more sufferers, including those who develop a tolerance to conventional stimulation, the researchers say that new types and patterns of stimulation, such as burst and high frequency, should be considered.

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To date, only small studies have been performed on burst stimulation, but Drs. Dones and Levi say the results have been promising. “When compared to conventional SCS,” they state, “burst stimulation gave remarkable long-term pain higher suppression.” In addition to providing greater pain control than the traditional tonic pattern, it was also associated with a decreased incidence of paresthesia (a pins-and-needles sensation).

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Studies have also shown that burst stimulation may be more effective in reducing pain in the axial midline region, an area that conventional tonic stimulation often fails to treat effectively.5 Dr. Dones told PPM that this is because “burst stimulation can recruit more nerve fibers in the spinal cord, thus interfering with their transmission of pain to the brain.”

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The authors cite a small study using high-frequency stimulation that showed 70% of patients “experienced a significant and sustained low back pain and leg pain relief.”6 They note, however, that another study showed no significant difference between the high-frequency mode and a placebo. More studies need to be conducted, they say.

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Joshua Rosenow, MD, director of Functional Neurosurgery and Epilepsy Surgery at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, IL, applauds these recent advances. New patterns of stimulation, including combinations, he says, “have allowed us to provide a wider population of patients with a significant amount of pain relief.” They have also enabled clinicians to “more precisely match the therapy to the patient,” both now and as pain changes over time.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulators – Shortcomings of Evidence


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Shortcomings of Evidence for

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Spinal Cord Stimulators

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The journal Practical Pain Management has published a presentation of spinal cord stimulators, SCS’s, made at the International Association for Study of Pain, IASP, World Congress. This adds greatly to my concern that they not be trialed for those who have Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS. About 8,000 visits per year on my website, double any other topic on pain, are about the damage these devices have inflicted, and the comments are gruesome. See search function, top left above small photo.

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John Markman, MD, recounts what’s currently on the table for SCS and how much more is needed for adequate pain relief. A 2018 IASP World Congress on Pain highlight.”

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“In a presentation titled “Yes, We Now Have the Evidence, But..,.” John Markman, MD, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester, outlined some shortcomings of the existing evidence for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) including heterogeneous populations studies.Dr. Markman’s main concern with SCS is the level of uncertainty he has with the procedure—how it works, whom it works for, and the non-specific treatment effects of the procedure. To rectify this, he has begun to conduct crossover studies in his practice to get a better grasp of these questions. “Imagine if, in 2018, the indication for putting in a spinal cord stimulation system were as matched to mechanism as a cardiac pacemaker,” Dr. Markman posed the audience, noting that SCS implementation remains heavily dependent on self-reporting.”

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…snip…

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“Existing Evidence”

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“SCS technology is still evolving, Dr. Markman said. While self-reporting is still prevalent, what has changed in the past five decades is the upgrade from a single case report to prospective, multinational, randomized clinical trials. One landmark trial, for instance, randomized 100 failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) patients with predominant leg pain of neuropathic radicular origin to receive SCS plus conventional medical management (the SCS group) or conventional medical management alone (the CMM group) for at least 6 months.Compared with the CMM group, the SCS group experienced improved leg and back pain relief, quality of life, and functional capacity, as well as greater treatment satisfaction. Between 6 and 12 months, five SCS patients switched to CMM, and 32 CMM patients switched to SCS. At 12 months, 27 SCS patients (32%) had experienced device-related complications. In selected patients with FBSS, SCS provided better pain relief and improved health-related quality of life and functional capacity compared with CMM alone.”

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“Other significant trials for SCS include North, et al, from 2005,3 and Kemler, et al, from 2008.4 “This is an era marked by open-label studies,” Dr. Markman said. Enormous technical innovation, improvement of clinical trial designs, and larger study populations (prospective, head-to-head), are just some of the factors leading these recent advancements.”

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“Evidence Still Needed”

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“Despite the success in recent years of more trials being applied to SCS, many questions have yet to be addressed. For instance, the totality of study participants to date is only 973, a study population that is “poorly characterized,” according to Dr. Markman. “Chronic pain after spine surgery, that’s an iatrogenic injury, and it’s a very heterogeneous group of patients, some of who have axial-predominant neuropathic pain.” In one study,5 of 97 subjects who completed a trial of HF10 therapy, 90 (92.8%) had significant back pain relief and were eligible for an implant of an SCS system. In comparison, 81 of 92 subjects (88.0%) were successfully trialed with traditional SCS (P = 0.33). “Which is incredibly high in my opinion. Think about in your own practice how many times you’ve tried someone on a therapy for a heterogeneous pain problem, some of which is nociceptive, some of which is neuropathic…and 92% of them get relief? It just doesn’t reflect anything in my practice,” Dr. Markman said.”

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“In addition to this, the lack of blinding in trials, as well as the lack of controls, makes the results weaker by design. External challenges include the regulatory framework for devices being much less rigorous for analgesic drugs, for example. Study sponsorship has also been an issue, as many current studies that are industry-sponsored have a clear publication bias compared to payor studies that are normally negative in nature, Dr. Markman suggested.”

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“Devices are also constantly changing. “It’s a moving target,” he said. “It’s like comparing your phone in 1967 to your phone today. It’s not really a great comparison.” A generation of studies now has emerged that has made comparisons to figure out what the on-target analgesic actions are and what non-specific treatment effects have been seen. “The disruption in technology is changing the stakeholders and how they engage,” Dr. Markman said. He concluded by noting that, due to an impact-style meeting having an enormous accelerant effect on deciding the “rules of the road” for oral analgesic trials, a group is now meeting with representatives from the International Neuromodulation Society and the North American Neuromodulation Society to develop consensus guidelines for spinal cord stimulation.”

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulation, Current Status 2017


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One of the top read articles in 2017 from the journal Pain (free pdf).

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Click title below:

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Current status and future perspectives of spinal cord stimulation in treatment of chronic pain

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Geurts, José W.a,*; Joosten, Elbert A.a,b; van Kleef, Maartena

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3. Complications and side effects

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“Complications and side effects (adverse events) acquiring reinterventions often occur during treatment with SCS.6,8,16,20,37 Complications include deep and superficial infections or equipment-related side effects like hardware malfunction, lead migration, fractured electrode, pulse generator discomfort, and battery replacements. Localized pain over the implanted hardware occurs regularly, on average in 6% of cases.6 This pain, for instance, can present as pain around the implanted pulse generator or over the lead. Such pain typically leads to replacement of the lead and therefore an additional surgery. Removal of the SCS system may be necessary in cases of deep infection or treatment failure. A prospective study performed over 12 years8 showed adverse events in 61% of patients. However, the complication rate was significantly reduced during the last 4 years of the study from an annual mean of 30% to 22%. The authors concluded that this was likely due to technological developments and improvements in the SCS hardware. Another explanation for this reduction is that the physicians treating patients gradually gain experience in a particular implant technique.22 New implantation techniques like DRG-STIM have been reported to cause more complications and it has been concluded that refinement and optimization of the technique are needed to minimize adverse events.22

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5. Future perspectives of spinal cord stimulation

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….”A point of concern is that, at present, cost-effectiveness of SCS is impeded by the high cost of the device and the high incidence of complications and side effects requiring reintervention and surgery. Consequently, SCS treatment is not accessible for everyone in the world and up to now is only available for selected indications.”….

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Among problems from spinal cord stimulators that I have seen in those with CRPS, the procedure has created a new pain that is now #1 most severe, often at the battery pack that is placed at the low back. Several patients reported units were explanted with difficulty due to severe scar formation.   

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Reference

[8]: Geurts JW, Smits H, Kemler MA, Brunner F, Kessels AG, van Kleef M.

Spinal cord stimulation for complex regional pain syndrome type I: a prospective cohort study with long-term follow-up.

Neuromodulation 2013;16:523–9; discussion 529.

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Objectives: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an effective treatment for intractable complex regional pain syndrome type I pain. Long-term data are scarce on effectiveness, degree of pain relief, predictors, and complications.

Materials and methods: From 1997 to 2008, 84 consecutive patients who received an implanted SCS system after positive test stimulation were included in the prospective study. Treatment effectiveness was assessed annually as measured by mean visual analog scale pain scores and with the Patients Global Impression of Change scale. Treatment success was defined as at least 30% mean pain relief at end point and treatment failure as explantation of the system. A Cox regression determined if baseline factors were associated with both these outcomes.

Results: During 11 years, 41% (95% CI: 27-55) of the patients experience at least 30% pain relief at assessment end point. During 12 years of follow-up 63% (95%CI: 41-85) of the implanted patients still use their SCS device at measured end point. Pain relief of at least 50% one week following test stimulation is associated with a higher probability of long-term treatment success. In 51 patients, 122 reinterventions were performed over 12 years; 13 were due to complications, 44 to battery changes, and 65 reinterventions were equipment related.

Conclusion: SCS provides an effective long-term pain treatment for 63% (95%CI: 41-85) of implanted patients. Forty-one percent (95%CI: 27-55) of SCS treated patients have at least 30% pain reduction at measurement end point. The number of reinterventions after implantation due to equipment-related problems, battery changes, and complications is 122 over 12 years of follow-up. Sixty-one percent (N = 51) of the patients had at least one reintervention. Mean pain relief of at least 50% (visual analog scale) one week after the test stimulation is associated with long-term treatment success.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

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Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

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For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Spinal Cord Stimulators – Not Allowed to Sue Medtronic – Supreme Court Ruling 2008


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More than any other topic  readers seem to read and comment more about serious problems with the Medtronic spinal cord stimulator than anything else on this site, yet they overlook this post last week: 

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Supreme Court ruling 2008

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Riegel v Medtronic

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Patients Who are Implanted with High-Risk Devices

 

Not Allowed to Sue

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And the problems never get addressed. There is no accountability for the damage to spinal cord that so many experience—the spinal cord for Pete’s sake —and no research on the incidence of the many different problems. If complications were not severe, thousands would not care to search the subject.

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Perhaps a person with a legal background would discuss how that case was won.

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How can this possibly be right? 

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

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It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

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It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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Medical Devices: Supreme Court ruling 2008, Riegel v. Medtronic, Patients Who are Implanted with High-Risk Devices Not Allowed to Sue


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Supreme Court ruling 2008, Riegel v. Medtronic

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Patients Who are Implanted with High-Risk Devices

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Not Allowed to Sue

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If you are not certain you are willing to take on risk, more medical problems, grave risk, even death, do not get a device implant. Keep in mind what some orthopedic surgeons teach: Do not get an joint replacement until you absolutely cannot walk anymore.

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Let me take this opportunity to demand a 5 year followup study of spinal cord stimulators to include every death and every problem regardless of cause. It will never happen. The swamp is impervious to us.

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NPR interview today on risk of implanted medical devices.

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“…40 percent of conditional approvals haven’t had a post-approval study five years after it’s on the market. So people are being subjected to devices that scientists may have had serious concerns about, and yet, they don’t even know if they’re safe or not.

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…DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies in for Terry Gross….We’re speaking with medical journalist Jeanne Lenzer, who’s written a new book about the risks and implanted medical devices such as artificial joints, cardiac stents and pacemakers. She says they’re approved with far less scrutiny than new drugs, and some can cause serious harm. Her book is called “The Danger Within Us.”

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…Dennis Fegan, this firefighter and paramedic who suffered from epileptic seizures, and out of some desperation, got this vagus nerve stimulator planted in him, this little box with wires that would stimulate the vagus nerve that runs down his body and hopefully ease his epileptic seizures. He ended up in a life-threatening situation in [2006].

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LENZER: So one night, he was awakened about a – with a pain in his throat. About 2 in the morning, he woke up. And he knew that the pain in his throat was associated with a seizure, so he got up, and he put a vertical mark on his calendar on that date….And when his parents found him the next morning, they saw him stumble out of his room and fall unconscious onto the floor. And when he came to, he got up, sat down on a dining room chair and immediately fell face-first into the floor again. This time, you know, he’s afraid of falling again, so he wiggles across the room with his back against the wall. His legs are splayed in front of him. His jeans are soaked with urine. He looks half dead. His parents frantically call for an ambulance. By the time the ambulance gets there, he’s already passed out eight more times.

The paramedics, figuring he’s having seizures – as Dennis thought he was having seizures – gave him seizure medication that they injected in his arm. But it didn’t stop the seizures. So they rush him to the hospital, where the ER doctor also gives him more seizure medicine seeing his seizures. And again, he can’t stop the seizures. And the ER doctor is frantic. He, you know, thumps Fegan on the chest trying to bring him back to life. And that’s when he notices something very curious.

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Fegan’s heart is stopping at precisely three-minute intervals. This makes no sense to the ER doctor. He calls in a cardiologist. The cardiologist rushes downstairs, looks at him. They both see the same thing. And it’s only when the neurologist arrives – Fegan’s neurologist – who says, oh, Fegan has a VNS device, and it’s set to fire at exactly three-minute intervals. So the device, instead of stopping his seizures, was stopping his heart. So they rushed to turn off the device. And when they finally get it turned off, the seizures stop immediately and Fegan doesn’t have anymore. They send him up to the ICU to recover. And the next day, Fegan learns that his heart has been stopped by the device. And that launches him into a decade-long battle with FDA, regulatory authorities and the device manufacturer….

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LENZER: Right. And Fegan gets concerned about other people implanted with the device and wants to know whether it’s happening to other people, so he finds out about the FDA’s MAUDE database. It’s a database where all device adverse events are kept. And when he looks into the database, he sees that many people have actually had very similar experiences to his own, but also, many have died. And he’s wondering, you know, if I’d been found dead, he told me, everybody would have said I died of epilepsy rather than the device. And it’s only because he lived and there’s a recording in the ER of what happened to him that anyone knows it wasn’t because of epilepsy. It was because of the device.

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DAVIES: This raises one of the interesting issues about these devices and their regulation. The FDA has this database at which physicians and hospitals are expected to report problems – adverse events with medical devices. Sounds like it would be a smart way – and the FDA says it is the way – we look for red flags. Why doesn’t it work better?

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LENZER: Well, first of all, there’s a study showing that only about 1 percent of all serious adverse events make it into the FDA’s adverse event database. And something that really surprised me was, it turns out that the more serious the event was, the less likely it was to be reported. Manufacturers are supposed to report these adverse events. And there is some leeway granted to them about determining whether the device event was related or not to the device.

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So, you know, sometimes people cough and sneeze when they have a device. It doesn’t mean the device caused it. The problem is is that there’s no independent party assessing whether these problems are related to the device or not. So leaving that decision to the company presents a real conflict of interest.

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DAVIES: Yeah. So, for example, if someone died because this stimulator had actually stopped his heart, it could appear to be epilepsy and therefore would not appear as an adverse event associated with the device….

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…LENZER: That’s a big problem. And that’s something that I refer to as cure as cause, where – doctors assume that when a patient dies – and I did too when I was in practice – that a patient has a heart attack, they died of a heart attack and the bad heart rhythm that went with it. We don’t assume that it’s the drug or the device that we prescribed for the patient. And that’s a real problem because it turns out that the kind of studies we need – there really shouldn’t even be a decision about whether a side effect is due to the device or not.

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We should just count up all the adverse events, all the deaths that occur in the patients who are implanted and in the control group. And that would give us a far better picture because it turns out that the kind of studies we need – there really shouldn’t even be a decision about whether a side effect is due to the device or not….

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LENZER: Well, he was told that he could have the generator taken out but not the lead wires, the lead wires that tunneled up to his neck and were wrapped around the vagus nerve because many surgeons have found that the wires become enmeshed in scar tissue. And it just becomes too dangerous to try to tease those wires out of the scar tissue. They can tear and destroy the very nerves that are next to them and even the jugular vein and the carotid artery that are right adjacent to the vagus nerve. So it’s too dangerous a surgery, and they left the lead wires in but took the generator out.

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DAVIES: Dennis Fegan was frustrated by what happened to him, and one of the things he considers is a lawsuit. It turns out he is unable to sue and he learns why….

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LENZER: Well, it turns out there was a Supreme Court ruling in 2008 called Riegel v. Medtronic, and it’s also called the pre-emption ruling. And what it means is that patients who are implanted with high-risk devices that went through the premarket approval process called PMA are not allowed to sue. And the basis for that is – is that supposedly they underwent rigorous testing proving the device was safe.

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DAVIES: So patients can sue in the case of a drug that they think has harmed them but not in devices that have gone through this process.

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LENZER: Not in certain devices – that’s right – certain high-risk devices…

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DAVIES: You argue in this book that the FDA does a bad job of regulating these devices because they’ve become heavily influenced, maybe even captured by the industries they regulate….

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LENZER:That’s no longer the case. We’ve had a number of instances now, including an episode dubbed Devicegate in which all of the scientists agreed that certain devices should not be approved because they were unsafe and ineffective. And yet the devices were put on the market over the unanimous opinion of their own scientists when politicians made phone calls to FDA superiors. This is really stunning that politics is trumping science. And it’s getting worse now with 21st Century Cures Act that was passed in late 2016, which essentially is deregulating even further.

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…. Even if we read the studies that are released, we don’t know that we can trust them.

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Other Devices That Are Particularly Problematic

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And I’ll give you two examples of just how difficult the situation is. One of the people I talk about in the book is a man who was harmed by a hip implant. Well, it turns out that man is also an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in hip replacements, and yet he landed up being poisoned by his hip implant from cobalt that leaked out of the hip and destroyed his muscles and tissues and even caused some degree of heart damage.

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Another example is a Medtronic executive that I report on who had a Medtronic device implanted in her spine and suffered just terribly disabling and painful effects from that device. So even people who are insiders and who should know don’t really know….

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The Sprint Fidelis leads that go to defibrillators pacemakers were found to have fractured and cause serious injury and death. And these were implanted in hundreds of thousands of people. And this is one of the problems with devices – is that, you know, what do you do once you’re implanted with something that may be dangerous? Having them removed in 15 to 18 percent of people, nearly 1 in 5 people suffered serious adverse events or death when they tried to remove the leads.

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Hip implants have leaked chromium and cobalt, and there are other problems. Pelvic mesh – again, a seemingly simple device. It’s just mesh after all – surgical mesh. And yet it has grated through tissues like a cheese grater through cheese and caused what’s called fistulas – holes between the rectum and the vagina and causing serious pain, infections, hemorrhage. There are all kinds of problems with medical devices that people might want to think about first.

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And one of the common things I hear from patients is, you know, now that I think of it, my problem wasn’t that serious. So a woman who has a little bit of urinary dribbling when she sneezes or gets excited goes and gets this pelvic mesh put in because a doctor recommends it and then has a lifetime of pain, infections and suffering. So I guess my best advice would be, if you’re not certain you really need something, it might be best to wait….

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LENZER: And ask if your ER doctors know how to take care of you. I mean, there was one tragic case of a woman with a vagus nerve stimulator who called her sister saying, oh, my God, my VNS is shocking me. I can feel it. It’s so painful. I dropped to my knees. And her sister told her, go. Go straight to the ER.

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And the young woman who was about 39 years old, a young mother, said, I can’t because they don’t have the tools to turn this off. I have to wait until my doctor comes in on Monday morning. She didn’t get to see her doctor on Monday morning because her 9-year-old daughter found her dead in the bathroom on Sunday night….

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 Risk of Devices  – New York Times Opinion

by medical journalist Jeanne Lenzer

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When Stephen Tower’s right hip gave out in 2006, he asked his surgeon to implant an artificial one — specifically, a metal-on-metal hip called the ASR XL, made by Johnson & Johnson. He knew what he was talking about: As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Tower specializes in complex hip replacements. But what he knew wasn’t enough to protect him from a defect in the device.

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Five years after his surgery, and in excruciating pain, Dr. Tower underwent more surgery, this time to have the device replaced. When the surgeon sliced into his hip, what he saw looked like a crankcase full of dirty oil. Tissue surrounding the hip was black. Cobalt leaking from the ASR hip had caused a condition called metallosis, destroying not only local muscle, tendons and ligaments, but harming Dr. Tower’s heart and brain as well.

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Despite Dr. Tower’s repeated efforts to warn his colleagues and the company that the implants were harming patients, Johnson & Johnson continued to market metal-on-metal hips. While it withdrew the ASR XL model from the market in 2010, citing slow sales, it continued to sell another, similarly problematic model, the Pinnacle, until 2013.

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More than 9,000 patients filed suit against the company, and on Nov. 16, six New York patients won a $247 million trial verdictfor serious harms caused by the Pinnacle hip implants and for failing to warn doctors and patients about its dangers. These suits and others are pulling back the curtain on what some doctors call the Wild West of medicine: the untested and largely unregulated medical device industry.

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About 32 million Americans — or about one in 10 — have at least one medical device implanted, from artificial joints to cardiac stents, surgical mesh, pacemakers, defibrillators, nerve stimulators, replacement lenses in eyes, heart valves and birth control devices….

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Although the standard for approval of a new drug usually calls for two randomized, controlled clinical trials, the standard for many medical devices is no standard at all. Since medical devices didn’t come under regulatory control by the F.D.A. until 1976, the agency simply grandfathered in all devices that were already on the market under a provision known as 510(k), which allows manufacturers to sell most new devices without requiring any clinical testing as long as the manufacturer says its product is “substantially equivalent” to an existing device.

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Even when devices are subjected to trials, the F.D.A. sometimes ignores danger signs detected by those studies. In 1997, during the approval process of the vagus nerve stimulator, a device made by Cyberonics to treat epilepsy, an F.D.A. adviser voiced concerns about a high death rate noted in patients with the device. But the agency didn’t stop the device from going to market. Instead, it awarded conditional approval, meaning that Cyberonics would have to conduct safety studies after the device was on the market.

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The agency didn’t even require Cyberonics to inform patients that there was concern about the death rate, or that they were effectively being made unwitting guinea pigs. When Cyberonics finally submitted five studies that it said proved the device was safe, it failed to include death data for any of the studies, a move the F.D.A. defended, saying the agency hadn’t asked the company to count deaths, only to “characterize” deaths.

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How it’s possible to characterize deaths without including any actual data on deaths is anyone’s guess.

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With such shockingly lax regulations, it’s no surprise that device recalls have risen over the years; in 2003, there were eight Class 1 device recalls, which the F.D.A. defines as indicating “a reasonable probability” that a device will “cause serious adverse health consequences or death.” In 2016, that number rose to 117, affecting hundreds of thousands of patients.

..In addition to the 510(k) pathway, medical device companies can avoid clinical testing for the highest risk devices through the supplement pathway by telling the F.D.A. they made a minor change to a previously approved device. The use of these loopholes is widespread: A study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 found that only 5 percent of high-risk implanted cardiac devices even partly met the standard for drug testing.

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Metal hips are far from the only devices with catastrophic consequences. In October 2007, Medtronic, a leading medical device manufacturer, recalled the lead wires in its Sprint Fidelis defibrillator after they were found to fracture and misfire, harming or even killing patients. The devices had not been clinically tested and were approved for sale by the F.D.A. through the supplement pathway. But in this case, the “minor change” was a fatal one; the new wire was thinner and prone to fracture.

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By the time of the recall, 268,000 leads had been implanted in patients worldwide, the majority in the United States. After the recall, many patients rushed to have the devices removed, but removal posed its own dangers, causing major complications in 15 percent of patients.

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Even when devices are subjected to trials, the F.D.A. sometimes ignores danger signs detected by those studies. In 1997, during the approval process of the vagus nerve stimulator, a device made by Cyberonics to treat epilepsy, an F.D.A. adviser voiced concerns about a high death rate noted in patients with the device. But the agency didn’t stop the device from going to market. Instead, it awarded conditional approval, meaning that Cyberonics would have to conduct safety studies after the device was on the market.

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The agency didn’t even require Cyberonics to inform patients that there was concern about the death rate, or that they were effectively being made unwitting guinea pigs. When Cyberonics finally submitted five studies that it said proved the device was safe, it failed to include death data for any of the studies, a move the F.D.A. defended, saying the agency hadn’t asked the company to count deaths, only to “characterize” deaths.

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How it’s possible to characterize deaths without including any actual data on deaths is anyone’s guess.

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With such shockingly lax regulations, it’s no surprise that device recalls have risen over the years; in 2003, there were eight Class 1 device recalls, which the F.D.A. defines as indicating “a reasonable probability” that a device will “cause serious adverse health consequences or death.” In 2016, that number rose to 117, affecting hundreds of thousands of patients.

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The material on this site is for informational purposes only.

.

It is not legal for me to provide medical advice without an examination.

.

It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.

~~

Comments are welcome.

This site is not for email, not for medical questions, and not for appointments.

~~~~~

For My Home Page, click here:  Welcome to my Weblog on Pain Management!

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Please IGNORE THE ADS BELOW. They are not from me.

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