Over the years on this Blog, we have followed the evolution of spinal cord stimulator (SCS) technology, at the same time highlighting its changing benefits and risks. In that time, SCS has progressed from being, frankly, almost an option of last resort, to become a relatively routine choice in the long-term management of chronic pain.
Boston Scientific has now released its latest generation spinal cord stimulator (SCS), the WaveWriter Alpha™. This combination therapy device incorporates Fast Acting Sub-perception Therapy (FAST), the first SCS designed to deliver this technology. FAST provides almost immediate pain relief without causing paraesthesia, the tingling sensations experienced with traditional spinal cord stimulators.
Paraesthesia-free stimulation therapy is not new but usually take several days or even weeks to begin to work. FAST, on the other hand, is…fast! According to Boston Scientific, if the implantation is successful, both pain and tingling should be almost eliminated within a few minutes of turning on the device remotely.
“We have found that the specific targeting and stimulation parameters of FAST uniquely engage the surround inhibition mechanism to produce rapid and robust pain relief,” said Warren M Grill, professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, who helped develop the new therapy. “What sets FAST apart from other forms of SCS is that we understand the underlying mechanism, which helps define clinical practices to optimize patient outcomes.”
The manufacturer says the technology can “aid in the management of chronic intractable pain of the trunk and/or limbs including unilateral or bilateral pain associated with failed back surgery syndrome, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Types I and II, intractable low back pain and leg pain.”
The WaveWriter Alpha™ SCS systems were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in December 2020. Now, the chronic pain team at Barts Health NHS Truts in London, along with a number of other hospitals around the UK, are trialling the device.