I’m sure you’ve had epiphanies in your life. Today, I would like to share one of mine with you. I’ve had those miracle moments with the birth of a child and meeting my wife. But, this was an epiphany for the doctor in me. Something that has truly changed the way I treat patients and how I can see treatment impacting their quality of life in a powerful way.
For several years, I had been performing nerve decompression procedures on patients suffering from neuropathy (burning, tingling, numbness and pain). We believe these symptoms occur because there is too much pressure on the nerve tunnels. We go in surgically and relieve the pressure on these nerves, and many patients report up to 90% symptom relief either immediately, or just days after surgery. This procedure is very similar to those performed on the hand for carpal tunnel syndrome, but no one was really doing this for patients with neuropathy in their legs and feet.
Up until this point, I could see that patients would often have immediate relief of their neuropathy symptoms, but all we had to go on was their experience. They would say, “My numbness is gone, I can feel my feet again, I don’t need my medication anymore.” But, we doctors like to see the proof. And so I was dreaming about a way to show objectively how the nerve function was actually being improved.
And Then It Happened
I was invited to California along with four other doctors, who were also nerve surgeons, to learn about this nerve testing device. This doctor was showing how you could stimulate the nerve before opening up the tunnel and measure how much the muscles contract. Then, you repeat the test after all the pressure on the nerve had been relieved and you can actually see numbers that measure the difference. Wow!
This was confirming what patients had been telling me all along. It finally armed me with a tool to reach more patients suffering from neuropathy.
Proof in the OR
So what does this mean to you as the patient? This is exciting because the surgeon now has a way to monitor the progress of the surgery as it’s happening. Many of you may have a healthy fear of surgery and that’s ok. What the nerve monitor does is provide you with more confidence that the surgeon can optimize your improvement during surgery.
Now every week when I measure the nerve function on a patient before and after surgery, I can see a 20, 30, 70, up to even a 300% improvement! This is so exciting because it validates scientifically that these nerve decompression procedures are truly reversing the nerve damage that has caused the patient to suffer from the symptoms of neuropathy and restless leg syndrome. Also, if the nerve is very unhealthy, we can elect to continuously stimulate the nerve for a couple of minutes, as this may be able to therapeutically repair the nerve.
What It Means For You
Perhaps you are diabetic and suffering from neuropathy. Maybe you have had restless leg syndrome your whole life, and you have never found a solution. You may have had cancer, and been treated with chemotherapy, and now have neuropathy as a result. Maybe you have been perfectly healthy but as you have gotten older, you started to lose feeling in your feet, and began to lose your balance. Maybe you are on medications, and the side effects are bothering you tremendously. Whatever your experience, here are a few benefits that can occur as a result of nerve decompression treatment:
- Better, more peaceful sleep
- Elimination or reduction of medication
- Increased activity levels
- Improved balance
- Reduction of falls
- Reduction of amputation risk
- Weight reduction
- Reduction of emotional stress and depression
The intraoperative nerve monitoring concept can give you the confidence to hope for all of the above.
It takes time for a vision to take shape. Now several years later, with lots of work (and frustration), the first of three research papers has been published. Just a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to China and speak to a gathering of 500 international foot and ankle surgeons about my recently published paper on intraoperative nerve monitoring. The paper reports that in diabetic patients with neuropathy, we can measure improvement of nerve function within minutes during surgery.
Flying home, I began to reflect on all of this, and here is what I want you to know. I so appreciate the trust that my patients have given me. My wish is that if you are suffering from restless legs or neuropathy, this would be the one thing that you need to give you a glimmer of hope.
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