A British woman is now pain-free for the first time in almost 40 years following a world-first nerve stimulation procedure.
Alison Cameron was fitted with the implant, pioneered by consultant neurosurgeon Girish Vajramani at University Hospital Southampton, in December.
The 56-year-old, from Bournemouth, Dorset, had suffered from chronic neuropathic pain since undergoing appendicitis surgery at the age of 17 which resulted in her requiring more than 50 injections to freeze the site of her pain, known as cryoblocks.
But none of the treatments resolved her pain successfully for more than six months and the high doses of pain relief that she took left her unable to tolerate food and fluids.
The new procedure involved placing four paddle-shaped electrodes across small collections of nerves in the spinal nerve known as the dorsal root ganglion (DRG).
A University Hospital Southampton (UHS) spokesman said: “These nerve ‘bundles’ are connected to every section of the vertebrae and are involved with sending pain messages to the brain.”
Chronic pain affects between 33% and 50% of the population in the UK, with neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve disease or nerve damage, accountable for up to 9% of all cases.
Due to multiple possible causes and because it can affect areas other than the initial site of the problem, it is challenging to treat and responds poorly to pain relief.
Mr Vajramani, who presented his findings at a meeting of the North American Neuromodulation Society, said: “Alison is one of the most challenging patients I have ever known and we really had tried everything for her – we had exhausted the options available.
“She had undergone 50 cryoblocks over 30 years, which is unprecedented and resulted in her referral to me when this proved too dangerous.”
He added: “Now, five months later, Alison has obtained 100% pain relief and her quality of life has improved fully for the first time in many years, I am delighted with the outcome so far but we will continue to monitor her closely.”
Ms Cameron said: “I can’t really describe what it feels like to be pain-free after all this time, I am just extremely grateful to Mr Vajramani for his persistence and desire to find a solution for me.
“Most people would struggle to believe the journey I have been on – I have been in pain from my teenage years to becoming a granny – but I hope my story can give hope to others that no matter how long you face adversity, things can get better.”