Researchers Use Electricity for Pain in Amputated Limbs

By Nate Crosby, SPR Therapeutics, LLC

Nearly 1.7 million Americans are living with an amputation and another almost 200,000 will undergo an amputation this year. The number of people living with amputation is expected to continue to climb as America deals with an unprecedented, epidemic level of obesity and diabetes. Following amputation many people report that they still feel pain in parts of the limb even though it is no longer there.

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Research Study Seeks Amputees to Test Effect of Electrical Stimulation on Chronic Pain

This "phantom" limb pain affects approximately 80% of persons who have undergone an amputation and an additional number suffer from pain in the residual limb. In total, approximately 95% of persons with an amputated limb deal with chronic post-amputation pain of one or both types of pain. Doctors recognize that nerves cause this pain but they don't yet fully understand how to treat it. For many patients, opioid pain medications, injections or physical therapy have limited benefit.

Researchers are now trying a new approach to determine if a device that delivers mild electrical stimulation to the nerve can help reduce the pain in amputees. The study is supported by a research grant from the US Department of Defense. The use of the device is investigational in this study.

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"For many amputees, pain—rather than the loss of a limb—is often the issue that has the biggest impact on their lives. It can keep them from returning to normal activities even with prosthetics," says Richard Rauck, MD, of the Center for Clinical Research, Winston-Salem, who is leading the research effort at one of the study locations. "There are now thousands of military personnel and civilians who need an effective solution for post-amputation pain."

The research study is currently enrolling patients, who will be treated with an investigational device that delivers mild electrical stimulation pulses. The study is open to people who have had an amputation and who have either phantom pain or residual pain in the amputated limb.

For more information about the trial, visit www.amputeepainstudy.com or call 1-800-385-7278.

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