Parachute accident victim implanted with mini neurostimulator to treat chronic pain

27 September 2008

St Jude Medical, Inc. (NYSE:STJ) has announced the first patient implant of its Eon Mini neurostimulator which is designed to treat chronic pain of the trunk or limbs and pain from failed back surgery. The company says it is the world’s smallest, longest-lasting, rechargeable neurostimulator.

The 26-year-old patient was implanted with the Eon Mini neurostimulator, a medical device which is slightly larger than a US silver dollar. Similar in function and appearance to a cardiac pacemaker, the neurostimulator delivers mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord, which interrupt or mask the pain signals’ transmission to the brain.

The patient, Adam Hammond, is a former member of the US Army Golden Knights Parachute Team. Hammond was skydiving while on leave in 2006 when his parachute did not deploy correctly. He hit the ground in excess of 45 miles an hour.

Hammond's numerous injuries included a broken femur, shattered pelvis and a severed spine. He spent the next two years undergoing multiple surgeries and physical therapy, but chronic pain from his injuries impacted his rehabilitation.

“Neurostimulation helps us control Adam’s pain so he can continue his rehabilitation and decrease his pain medications,” said Tim Deer, MD, president and CEO, Center for Pain Relief in Charleston, West Virginia, USA. “Our main goal is to use spinal cord stimulation to help him return to his everyday activities and become a vital part of society again.”

The Eon Mini neurostimulator has a thin 10 mm profile and weighs 29 grams (approx. 1.0 oz). Its small size allows for a smaller incision, giving the physician increased control and flexibility in selecting the implant location.

The device has received a 10-year battery life approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For patients this means the device should provide sustainable therapy and maintain a reasonable recharge interval for 10 years of use at high settings. The device’s battery longevity may also mean that patients require fewer battery replacement surgeries.

Because the charging system is fully portable, the Eon Mini neurostimulator allows patients the freedom to comfortably recharge the device’s battery while taking a walk, cooking a meal or shopping.

“I already have significant pain relief,” said Hammond. “I’m now able to walk twice as far, and I recently went to the movies with my best friend. It feels good to start getting my life back.”

Pain is a serious and costly public health issue, and it remains largely under-treated and misunderstood. According to the US National Institutes of Health, 90 million people in the US suffer from chronic pain. The American Pain Foundation estimates that chronic pain costs approximately $100 billion per year in lost work time and healthcare expenses.

The Eon Mini neurostimulator has received FDA and European CE Mark approvals and will be available in autumn/fall 2008.

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