By age 51, Kenny Giesbrecht had endured six surgeries on his right knee with no relief for the pain that had plagued him for nearly 10 years.
“It seemed my only option was to go on disability and try to live with the pain,” says Ken, owner/operator of Kenny’s Mowing in Durham, Kansas. “And I had never taken anything other than over-the-counter medication to deal with it and I didn’t want to get started on anything addictive.”
But Dr. Goentzel had another option.
Last November, Abbott launched its U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved DRG Invisible Trial System, the first to allow people with complex chronic pain to try dorsal root ganglion stimulation — a clinically proven, non-opioid treatment option for targeted chronic pain management.
Kenny decided to give it a try.
During the outpatient procedure, Dr. Goentzel placed thin wires in Kenny’s spinal column near his L3 and L4 dorsal root ganglions. He then attached those wires to a small, external battery. For the next week, Kenny used an Apple iPod touch to manage his pain —changing the stimulation settings within prescribed limits to evaluate how DRG therapy was targeting his body's chronic pain symptoms.
“By the next day, my pain level was virtually none,” says Kenny.
So on May 8, Dr. Goentzel implanted Ken with the device manufacturer’s permanent DRG system so that he could continue to manage his pain with familiar and proven technology.
“It is an amazing and humbling opportunity to utilize stimulation of the dorsal root ganglion to help improve patients pain and quality of life so quickly,” says Dr. Goentzel, who is the first physician in the state west of Kansas City to offer the procedure.
“Seeing results like Kenny’s is a testament to this therapy,” he says, adding that his story serves to give other patients with complex regional pain syndrome hope that there are treatment options that can provide meaningful pain relief for the excruciating pain they deal with every day.
How it works
DRG therapy is a form of neurostimulation that specifically targets the dorsal root ganglion — a structure adjacent to the spinal cord densely populated with sensory nerves that transmit chronic pain to the central nervous system. The therapy helps people like Ken living with neuropathic pain conditions by blocking pain signals with electrical pulses transmitted over the DRG.
Clinical research, such as the ACCURATE study, has demonstrated that DRG therapy can provide superior pain relief as compared to traditional spinal cord stimulation therapy for patients with persistent neuropathic focal pain conditions. Focal chronic pain conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome, are some of the most prevalent and under-treated forms of chronic pain worldwide.
An estimated 1.5 billion people around the world are affected by chronic pain. While opioids are a prescribed therapy, an estimated 15.5 million people worldwide are considered opioid dependent. While prescription opioid medication can play an important role in helping patients manage short-term or cancer pain, these drugs lack evidence as an effective treatment for chronic pain.
Compounding the challenge, neuropathic conditions like CRPS have been difficult for physicians to treat because the pain stems from damage to the body resulting in a disruption of how the peripheral and central nervous systems process or transmit pain signals. Examples of these conditions may include chronic pain following hernia repair, total joint replacements or amputation.
"Considering the potential long-term impact, interventional therapies such as stimulation of the DRG can decrease pain, improve quality of life, reduce dependence on opioids and ultimately can prove less expensive over the long term for our healthcare system," says Dr. Goentzel.
As for Kenny, he’s thankful that he can keep working and go about the activities of daily living pain-free.
“I am absolutely sold on it,” he says. “It’s so much better than the alternative.”