WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- For the first time, scientists have devised a small, soft, flexible implant that relieves pain on demand and without the use of drugs.
Northwestern’s John A. Rogers, who led the device’s development believes that eventhough opioids are extremely effective, they also are extremely addictive. Therefore , researchers are motivated by the idea of treating pain without drugs -- in ways that can be turned on and off instantly, with user control over the intensity of relief. The implant allows the effect to be produced in a programmable way, directly and locally to targeted nerves, even those deep within surrounding soft tissues.
The biocompatible, water-soluble device works by softly wrapping around nerves to deliver precise, targeted cooling, which numbs nerves and blocks pain signals to the brain. An external pump enables the user to remotely activate the device and then increase or decrease its intensity. After the device is no longer needed, it naturally absorbs into the body -- bypassing the need for surgical extraction.
The scientists believe the device has the potential to be most valuable for patients who undergo routine surgeries or even amputations that commonly require post-operative medications. Surgeons could implant the device during the procedure to help manage the patient’s post-operative pain.