Pain management technology for chronic back pain:
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a surgical treatment involving the implantation of a “brain pacemaker”, a device that sends electrical impulses to areas of the brain, primarily the sensory thalamus, in order to relieve chronic pain. This procedure is used for pain that medication has had no effect on, as it’s not exactly simple and there can be some unpleasant side effects.
Fine electrode wires are inserted into specific parts of the brain, and then they are used to deliver continuous pulses of electricity to the brain regions that process pain signals. By changing brain activity though the depression of excitatory transmissions in the thalamus, pain is effectively “turned off”.
The DBS is made up of the implanted pulse generator (IPG), the lead, which is a wire insulated in polyurethane that the electrical impulses run through, and the extension, which connects the lead to the IPG. The DBS is surgically inserted into the body – the electrode is implanted into a small hole (about 14 mm) that is drilled into the skull under local anesthesia, and then under general anesthesia, the IPG and lead are implanted.
Side effects vary depending on the patient, but some that have been documented are “apathy, hallucinations, compulsive gambling, hypersexuality, cognitive dysfunction and depression”. Wikipedia notes that these effects may be temporary, if experienced at all, and are most likely reversible with either change in placement of the stimulator or its removal.
While there are a handful of procedures that you can turn to if medication fails to be effective, this particular one has a high success rate, some 80 percent over time, and is also reversible should it not work.