SAN DIEGO, California – Researchers are coming to the rescue of people with terrible pain in one part of their body.
They're using a stimulator that goes directly on the dorsal root ganglion: a bundle of nerves that transmit pain signals to the brain.
Raul Silva had his leg amputated in San Diego after a motorcycle accident in Mexico.
"I lost my leg years ago, in 2000. Since then, I have phantom pain."
His leg is gone, but he felt cold, numbness, and terrible pain there.
He worked to support his family for awhile but had to stop. Then, his doctor told him about a new pain control system called dorsal root ganglion stimulation, or DRG.
"The dorsal root ganglion is an offshoot of your spinal cord that correlates to a very specific nerves that's coming from your spinal cord to your specific extremity or portion of your back," sais Dr. Krishnan Chakravarthy, an assistant clinical professor of Anesthesiology.
Raul did a seven day trial with a temporary device sending electrical pulses to block pain signals to the brain.
"The analogy I give is if you have a six-lane highway or a bunch of cars that are driving, we're effectively setting a roadblock across the highway," said Dr. Chakravarthy.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: There is a new device to stop the pain signals from going to the brain through the Dorsal Root Ganglion, or DRG. It is implanted into the patient's back to send out mild electrical pulses and is controlled by a Bluetooth. The device is also compatible with MRIs. The DRG targets the specific area that is in pain instead of the whole spinal cord. There is also a new clinical trial that is looking to use augmented reality and superimposed limbs that move the lost limb and end the pain inside.
After 17 years of suffering, Raul reported his pain was gone.
"It was amazing because for instance, the beginning I feel like a real amputee person, no pain, no phantom pain, no cramping, nothing like that."
Raul became UC-San Diego Health's patient number one for the permanent DRG stimulator.
The leads and battery are implanted, and he controls the intensity and location of the stim with this bluetooth device.
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.