Sunday, July 23, 2006

New medical technique treats chronic facial pain News Staff

A new method for treating patients suffering from severe chronic facial pain is being introduced at select medical centres in Canada.

When traditional drugs or physical therapy fails in the treatement of chronic pain, considered consistent or intermittent pain that lasts six months or more, some doctors are turning to an experimental treatment known as motor cortex stimulation.

The treatment method, an electrical pain control system, places electrodes under the patient's skull over an area of the brain (motor cortex) that processes facial pain.

For Jen Dafoe, who suffered from a rare jaw disorder that required multiple surgeries, the resulting nerve damage was so severe that for two years she was often confined to her bedroom.

Not even surgery or heavy doses of narcotics could deaden her 'invisible' neuropathic pain.

"I couldn't work, I couldn't go to school, I couldn't do anything," Dafoe said.

As a result, London Health Sciences' Dr. Andrew Parrent successfully performed motor cortex stimulation on Dafoe.

"She appeared to be at her wit's end is a good way of putting it," Dr. Parrent said.

Now, with 99 per cent of her pain gone, Dafoe relishes in the simple act of buying a bicycle.

"Just to ride and have the wind on my face would be a great feeling," Dafoe said as she shopped for a bicycle.

Dr. Parrent tried to explain the complex procedure.

"Our presumption is that we are interfering with the way the brain perceives pain. But if it is jamming the signal or introducing another signal that overrides it ... isn't clear."

The surgery has been used in about two dozen Canadian cases after the patients -- suffering from facial pain caused by nerve damage or stroke -- failed all other methods of treatment.


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