Technological advances such as artificial discs and implantable devices which stimulate the spinal cord have fundamentally changed the treatment of chronic back pain. As a world leader in the research and treatment of the causes of back pain,Texas Back Institute has pioneered the use of both of these treatments.

Now, the surgeons and back specialists at Texas Back Institute are leading the way again in the treatment of chronic back pain. As is often the case, this new treatment and device came about as a result of the unintended consequences of a previous advancement.

Texas Back Institute is one of only a few organizations in the world to offer patients the first and only implantable neurostimulation system, indicated for the use in the treatment of chronic back and limb pain, which is designed for full-body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) safety. Before this device was available, patients who had this spine stimulation device implanted were unable to undergo an MRI. More on this later.

We asked Dr. Michael Hisey, an orthopedic surgeon at Texas Back Institute, what impact this MRI-friendly, implantable neurostimulation device will have on the treatment of chronic back pain. He said, “This newest generation of neurostimulators takes away the biggest limitation of having a stimulator implanted.  Now patients who have chronic issues requiring frequent MRI’s are a candidate for this pain relieving technology.”

Neurostimulation Implants

Over a short time, neurostimulation treatment has become a god-send to millions of people who have chronic back pain. This therapy uses a medical device placed under the patient’s skin to deliver mild electric impulses to the spinal cord. These impulses block pain signals from reaching the brain.

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The device used by Texas Back Institute surgeons – called RestoreSensor ™ – is manufactured by Medtronic (MDT – NYSE) and has proven to be an effective therapy in the treatment of chronic back pain. Other medical device companies also make implantable neurostimulation devices. However, until now, they have all faced a serious challenge. The patients who had them could not undergo an MRI exam.

Implants and MRI Exams

The MRI exam is a universally accepted standard of care in the diagnosis and treatment of major health conditions, including cancer, stroke and neurological problems. The challenge of using implantable neurostimulation devices to combat chronic pain was made more difficult by the fact that they were not compatible with the MRI. When exposed to the magnetic waves of the MRI, patients could be harmed, the device could be destroyed or both.

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Dr. Hisey notes, “MRI’s are commonly used to diagnose and monitor the progress of chronic conditions and to diagnose new problems.  With the previous generation of neurostimulators, patients were not allowed to have an MRI.  This significantly limited their doctors’ ability to diagnose the patient’s problems, often delaying treatment and limiting the doctors’ ability to make specific diagnoses.  In the case of acute conditions such as strokes, minutes of delay in diagnosis can make the difference between a warning stroke with no permanent damage and a significant stroke with permanent brain damage.  Giving the doctors back all of their diagnostic tools is critical.

Recently, a patient required an urgent MRI 7 days after having his stimulator implanted, and, because of the SureScan technology, he was able to have the scan and move on with treating his problem”

This Changes Everything

In the world of medical technology development, a challenge often leads to new and better technologies. Such is the case with the RestoreSensor implant.

Texas Back Institute is now one of a very few practice groups in the world to implant a patient with the new RestoreSensor SureScan™ with Vectris® SureScan® MRI percutaneous leads. This technology, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), changes everything.

Patients who have this spinal implant to control their chronic back pain and need the diagnostic tool of an MRI can now safely undergo this procedure. Dr. Hisey notes, “With this technology, patients who are receiving neurostimulation treatment via the SureScan implant to manage their chronic pain now have access to the full benefits of MRI scans without compromising their healthcare and their physicians have the best opportunity to identify potentially life-threatening medical conditions.”

Here’s how the RestoreSensor SureScan device works.

How Important is this New Advance?

MRI scans allow physicians to make a wide range of health diagnoses by viewing highly detailed images of internal organs, blood vessels, muscle, joints, tumor, areas of infection and others. An MRI scan uses magnetic field and radio frequency pulses to create images of structures inside the body. Where CT scans are used for imaging hard materials, such as bones, MRI scans are used to image soft tissues.

Because of its accuracy and relative ease of use, the MRI scan is a critical diagnostic tool and its use has dramatically increased. Several healthcare sources estimate that more than 60 million MRI procedures are performed worldwide each year. In the United States, the number of scans has almost doubled in the past decade, with 32 million scans – more than one MRI per second – performed in 2011.

The spine surgeons at Texas Back Institute have utilized the neurostimulation devices since they were approved by the FDA to help long-suffering patients with chronic back pain live with less pain. Now, this technology has gotten even better.

If you would like to learn more about the implantable neurostimulation system designed for full-body MRI safety, contact Jaclyn McDaniel at or 972-608-5006.

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