HOUSTON (March 23, 2016)

According to studies, an estimated 11 percent of American adults suffer from chronic pain. Chronic pain syndrome can often arise from trauma, nerve damage, degenerative conditions, cancer, debilitating headaches, facial pain diseases and systemic metabolic disorders such as diabetes. Sufferers often feel aches in their joints, bones or muscles for months and even years.

For many, this pain can be treatable with a procedure known as spinal cord stimulation – a process that entails implanting a small device under the skin which then sends electrical signals to the spinal cord to interfere with the nerve impulses that make one feel pain. In the U.S., approximately 25,000 new spinal cord stimulation implants and 8,000 replacement implants occur each year. However, if one of these patients was in need of an emergency MRI, the devices were not MRI-safe – until now.

Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center (MNI) was recently selected as the first site in Texas to receive the Medtronic Specify SureScan® MRI Technology, which is the first-ever MRI-safe spinal cord stimulation device. MNI will have access to the device beginning March 23.

“The MRI-safe SureScan will be great for all of our chronic pain syndrome patients because no patient can predict when they might need an MRI,” said Dr. Albert Fenoy, UTHealth neurosurgeon affiliated with MNI. “We treat a large number of patients for chronic pain syndrome, and it is important for them to have the same care experience as other patients when an MRI is needed.”

Based on Millennium Research Group’s 2014 market analysis of pain management devices in the U.S., 82 percent of patients implanted with a spinal cord stimulator are expected to need an MRI within five years of receiving their implant. These new neurostimulation systems will offer patients the confidence of knowing they can receive optimal diagnostic imaging anywhere in the body should the need arise. Without an MRI-safe device, Dr. Fenoy says patients would need to have the device removed, undergo the MRI and then have the device implanted again, which is costly and time consuming.

“We are incredibly honored to have been selected as the first site in Texas to have access to this new technology,” said Dr. Fenoy. “It speaks volumes of the work we are doing at MNI and the innovative treatments being provided by our UTHealth physicians.”