Leading Edge Surgery at SJMC: Pain Specialist Leads in Implant Spinal Cord Stimulation System Approved for MRI

Abdallah Kabbara, MD, medical director of the Pain Management Center at St. John Medical Center, discusses the Medtronic Spinal Cord Stimulation System implant with patient Tracy Caraballo before surgery last month. Tracy is now ‘feeling great” after years of chronic back pain.

Abdallah Kabbara, MD, medical director of the Pain Management Center at St. John Medical Center, discusses the Medtronic Spinal Cord Stimulation System implant with patient Tracy Caraballo before surgery last month. Tracy is now ‘feeling great” after years of chronic back pain.

Tracy Caraballo, 45, of Fairview Park is finally on the road to recovery, thanks to the surgical implantation of a spinal cord stimulation system performed at St. John Medical Center Nov. 11.

The system decreases her pain by delivering mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord, which act to block pain signals from going to the brain.

The surgery was so successful, Tracy is ready to return to her job by Dec. 16. The procedure is effectively addressing chronic, debilitating back pain that has limited Tracy for years.

Tracy is one of the first Northeast Ohio patients to receive new technology that allows a safe, full body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan, if needed, in the future. MRI is a technique used in radiology to visualize internal structures of the body in detail.

Ian Boykin, representing the Medtronic Spinal Cord Stimulation System, reviews details of the revolutionary pain management device with St. John Medical Center Patient Tracy Caraballo.

Ian Boykin, representing the Medtronic Spinal Cord Stimulation System, reviews details of the revolutionary pain management device with St. John Medical Center Patient Tracy Caraballo.

“The ability to safely perform MRI scans after a spinal cord stimulator implant is an important advance and a major benefit for our patients,” says Abdallah Kabbara, MD, medical director of the Pain Management Center at St. John Medical Center. Dr. Kabbara is one of the first surgeons in Northeast Ohio to implant the new device.

The Medtronic Spinal Cord Stimulation System is the first and only implant for use in the treatment of chronic, intractable back and/or limb pain that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for full-body Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). The new technology opens the benefits of this pain therapy to many more people.

“Until now, a patient with a spinal cord stimulator system was not permitted to undergo an MRI due to safety concerns related to large magnetic fields and radio frequency energy,” says Dr. Kabbara. “In today’s medical practice, MRI examinations are necessary and routinely performed for diagnosis and clinical care. It is very likely that a patient with chronic pain, spinal disease, neurological and orthopedic disorders will require an MRI scan.”

In the past, the spinal cord stimulator device had to be surgically removed in order for a patient to have an MRI, or the patient had to find other options that weren’t always available to them.

Caraballo, who has had two major back surgeries in the past including laminectomy and fusion, said a trial run with an external spinal stimulator was dramatically encouraging.

“It was life-changing,” she says of the two weeks she wore the external stimulator. “It was the first I had slept right on through the night. By Thursday night, I had so much energy. I put on my high heels at work on Friday to see how that would work. I missed them so. I wore them all day.

“I sat through meetings with no pain. I like to go to movies, so we went to the movies on Saturday, to a bonfire and a football game. It was amazing. On Fridays, I would usually go straight home and go to bed. I didn’t realize how bad I was.

“People noticed. They said I was ‘glowing’ and looked younger.”

Today, Tracy reports she is feeling “great” and no longer experiencing the pain she had in the past. She has been cleared to return for work.

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