Back Pain Goes Away with New Technology

Article excerpt

Dr. John Prunskis readily admits that this case was tougher on his patient than on himself.

His patient, a 51-year-old man plagued with serious back and leg pain, had to be well endowed in the patience department to deal with all the waiting.

He had to wait while Prunskis tried to figure out what was causing the man's pain.

And he had to wait some more while Prunskis tried different treatments to take away the pain. Sometimes, it took months to know if a procedure had really worked.

The Northwest suburban man first visited Prunskis, a pain management physician and board certified anesthesiologist, almost two years ago.

He had undergone surgery on the lowest disc in his back. Things were looking good for about a year. Then the man started to develop pain in his legs and back.

He tried everything to make the pain go away. Physical therapy, muscle relaxers, herbal remedies, anti-inflammatories, acupuncture, magnets - nothing worked.

"We started him on some medications to decrease the irritation of the nerves," said Prunskis, of the Illinois Pain Treatment Institute. The institute has offices in five locations: Elk Grove Village, Libertyville, McHenry, East Dundee and Chicago.

"He got some improvement, but there was still pain in his back and legs," he added.

Next, Prunskis gave him two epidural steroid injections, which made things just a little bit better.

The next step was a procedure called an epiduragraph. It's when the doctor injects a contrast dye that shows up on an X-ray. It helps identify areas where there might be post-operative scarring after back surgery. Sure enough, the epiduragraph showed scar tissue had built up.

"If it wraps itself around one of the nerve roots, it can cause pain," Prunskis said.

Recent technological advances meant Prunskis had a good shot at getting rid of this scar tissue. He performed an epidurascopy.

"Through a needle, we can place a tiny, tiny catheter with an even tinier fiber optic cable running through it," he said. …