Former nurse Lenita Miller says she's been fighting pain in her lower legs for decades, ever since undergoing ankle surgery.
"On days when it really hurts, it's a burning, stabbing, pulsing pain, to the point where I can't put on shoes or socks," she says.
She turned to Bay Area pain specialist Dr. Kas Amirdelfan, MD, who believes he may be able to finally bring Lenita relief with the help of a device now in clinical trials. It's a neurostimulator called Axium, developed by Menlo Park-based Spinal Modulation.
"So any type of pain from the groin down could potentially be treated with this type of technology," says Dr. Amirdelfan.
He says electrodes implanted on the spinal cord send pulses targeting a specific nerve area known as the dorsal root ganglion. The goal is to disrupt pain signals and prevent them from reaching the brain.
During the first stage, participants are implanted with either the Axium or an existing device that targets another area on the spine. Investigators then gauge the response.
"And every day we communicate with them and try to program the device to make sure they're getting optimal stimulation," he said. "And they'll come back in and they'll let me know, 'yes Dr. Amirdelfan I love this device, it's helping my pain.' Or, 'no I don't love this device, it's not helping my pain enough for me to move forward.'"
If the tests prove effective at relieving the pain, the next step is to implant the permanent system, including the stimulator, which is also placed underneath the skin. High resolution imaging is used to guide the procedure, which the doctor says poses very little risk for the patient.
"And it's completely reversible, that's the beautiful thing about it. If a magic cure comes, you can ex-plant it in about 30 minutes," Dr. Amirdelfan points out.
Lenita Miller received her permanent Axium implant shortly after we met her. She's hoping for long-term relief that will change her life.
"That the pain would be controlled enough that I could go back to doing things I really like, like volunteering for Girl Scouts, things like that," says Lenita.
The clinical trial is known as the Accurate study. All participants who experience a benefit with the neurostimulator they're implanted with -- either Axium or the control device -- are eligible to receive a permanent version at no cost.
To find out more or to locate a participating treatment center, patients can visit www.ACCURATEstudy.com or call 1-888-978-8397.
Bay Area sites:
IPM Medical Group
Dr. Kasra Amirdelfan
450 N Wiget Ln, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Napa Pain Institute
Dr. Eric Grigsby
3434 Villa Ln #150, Napa, CA 94558
Pain Clinic of Monterey Bay
Dr. Lawrence Poree
8057 Valencia St, Aptos, CA 95003
written and produced by Tim Didion