A UK first for spinal cord stimulation patients

Posted on in Hospitals, Services

A Teesside-based anaesthetist and pain specialist has carried out the first implant in the UK of a new spinal cord stimulation system that is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compatible.


Dr Sam Eldabe performed this UK first at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, by using a ‘SureScan’ technology system developed by Medtronic.

In the past, patients who have had a spinal cord stimulator fitted have been unable to have an MRI scan due to the high magnetic forces used in the scan and concerns about device safety. Medtronic has developed a system which is compatible with MRI scanners and allows patients with the device to have an MRI scan safely. This is done by turning the device into a ‘SureScan’ mode, similar to turning a mobile phone to ‘airplane mode’.

The procedure needs to be undertaken in two stages. Firstly the leads are implanted and then about a fortnight later the neurostimulator is implanted.

Dr Eldabe says there are significant benefits for the patient. He said “MRI scans are becoming the imaging investigation of choice in many illnesses; the fact that patients had to choose between long term pain relief or having MRI scans made spinal stimulators an imperfect solution for many patients. With the SureScan system patients no longer have to compromise particularly those with long term conditions requiring MRI scan surveillance”

Patient Heather Gelder, of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, is the first patient in the UK to receive the MRI-compatible stimulator and she’s very impressed.

The 54 year-old said “I have suffered with chronic back pain for years, had four previous back operations so I can really feel the difference. I’m really impressed with the relief this procedure has given me. Dr Eldabe and the staff have been brilliant and very supportive and it has made me a much happier and brighter person.

“I rate my pain at around 70% less than it was prior to the implant. I wish I could have had this years ago. It’s fantastic and what an honour it is to be the first patient in the UK to have this MRI-safe stimulator implanted.

“The best thing about the system though is that with your small hand-held electronic stimulator, which you place against the implanted sensor in your lower back, you are in control of your pain level.”

If you wish to know more about the Medtronic system, please contact Jon Pike at jon.pike@medtronic.com.