In a number of earlier articles we have examined Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) as a long term management tool for chronic pain. In Libby Parfitt’s excellent first hand account she describes SCS as “a controversial topic amongst sufferers of complex regional pain syndrome.” And how very true that is.
What is also true is that SCS technology is evolving at an increasingly fast pace. Devices are becoming smaller, battery life is improving and last year we reported on a new MRI-friendly stimulator.
Now, medical technology firm Medtronic have received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in the US for their Intellis device. Not only is this device marketed as the world’s smallest SCS, but the battery, which has a longer life than in earlier models, can be recharged from empty to full in one hour.
However, perhaps the most interesting development is that the Intellis comes with a system which can record and track your activity around the clock, including, mobility, body positions and stimulator usage; quite literally, it’s the spy inside you! All this data can then be monitored by doctors on a Samsung Galaxy tablet, the idea being that they won’t be solely reliant upon information reported by the patient. This means that with much more data at their fingertips, a doctor should be in a better position to make modifications to tailor make the therapy for each patient.
On their website Medtronic quote pain management specialist, Professor Jean-Pierre Van Buyten of the AZ Nikolaas Hospital in Belgium, where the first European patient received the Intellis device:
“Rather than rely on patient-reported data, the enhanced activity tracker of the Intellis platform provides real-time data that offers more visibility into quality of life changes.
“Better understanding a patient’s experience can lead to a more informed conversation that can help me maximize their pain relief.”
This isn’t Medtronic’s first implantable data recording device. Last year they launched an implantable cardioverter defibrillator for the monitoring and treatment of atrial fibrillation in the heart.
Inevitably, there will be some who will be alarmed at the emergence of this ‘big brother’ technology. However, I believe that most of us would admit that with a combination of our variable reporting skills and limited available consultation time, there is often scope for misunderstanding by the doctor. Surely, therefore, anything that helps to remove human fallibility and leads to a more constructive doctor/patient dialogue has got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?