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When ordinary is extraordinary

Progress over pain

How our technology can help people overcome the challenges of chronic pain to reclaim the simple moments they cherish

A viable alternative

Chronic pain can be debilitating ― keeping patients from what they love most. But Medtronic engineers are making progress over pain with viable alternatives to prescription drugs, helping patients like Arlene Velez-Diaz overcome their challenges.

Life interrupted

Twenty years ago, Arlene embraced a passion for life that reflected in the art she created. She was raising a young family and had discovered a talent for creating mosaics. The Puerto Rico native, who now lives in Sugar Land, Texas, crafted pieces that beautifully represented how she saw the world. But a devastating fall left her with intense chronic back pain. Making art — and even cleaning her house — was suddenly a huge challenge. “Every day, it was a new pain,” said Arlene. And it was only amplified by the mental anguish of living life with the limits of chronic pain. 

The alternative solution

Arlene was one of more than 50 million people1 — over twice the population of Texas — in the United States alone who suffer from chronic pain. But she wanted to return to her artwork, and to her work at a local middle school. More importantly, she wanted to be an active, vital grandmother to her grandson, able to keep in step without pain.

Arlene tried therapies, prescription drugs, and even surgery, all of which offered limited relief. In 2020 she met Dr. Candice Burnette, a pain management specialist, who proposed an alternative that could help Arlene get relief.

Dr. Burnette determined that Arlene would be a viable candidate for DTM spinal cord stimulation (SCS). A unique waveform delivered through the Intellis platform, an implantable stimulation technology, “It targets multiple areas of the patient's spinal cord using various energy waveforms,“ explained Dr. Burnette. And in fact, following the procedure the doctor saw not only a reduction in Arlene’s pain, but also an improvement in her function. Arlene “had 70% relief of her low-back pain — she was able to do more and needed less medications.” 

“Science generates new understanding”

In 2015 as the opioid epidemic was reaching its peak, killing over 33,000 people2 in the United States in a single year, engineers were unlocking the power of technology as an alternative pain therapy. At the Millennium Pain Center in Bloomington, Illinois, Dr. Ricardo Vallejo — who was dedicated to finding alternatives to prescription pain drugs — had a medical breakthrough. He developed a new algorithm that was shown in animal models to influence both neurons and glial cells in the spinal cord. It was believed that dual focus could significantly improve pain relief in some patients.

A photo of Ricardo Vallejo

Results have been significant

Applying the insight at scale, Medtronic engineers adapted the remarkable findings into the Intellis platform. Engineers now directed the technology to send pulses to the spinal column, interrupting pain signals in the nervous system. The results have been significant. In a 12-month clinical study, 84% of patients experienced at least 50% back pain relief.3

DTM SCS was an important breakthrough, giving patients with chronic back pain more alternatives to opioids.

“[This therapy] is truly phenomenal,” said Hector Cantua, a senior principal field clinical engineer who works on the project. “Not only are we helping patients with chronic pain — we’re going beyond expectations.”

Profound pain relief in 69% of patients

In a randomized controlled trial, Differential Target Multiplexed (DTM) spinal cord stimulation therapy provided profound back pain relief in 69% of patients at 12 months.3

The pieces coming together

Arlene is one of many patients who have experienced positive results with this technology. She returned to work, and now she is living life with a smile on her face. She’s also busy chasing her young grandson around — and keeping up. And this creative alternative pain therapy has helped Arlene get her artistic ambition back, too. She is once again creating beautiful mosaics out of the broken pieces she finds on her journey and is entering an art competition. “For me, [DTM SCS] made such a difference,” said Arlene. “It’s like a new chance at life.”  

This testimonial is one individual’s experience and does not provide any indication, guide, warranty, or guarantee as to the response or experience other people may have using the device.  Experiences can and do vary.  Please talk to your doctor about your condition and the risks and benefits of Medtronic devices.

INDICATIONS Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is indicated as an aid in the management of chronic, intractable pain of the trunk and/or limbs-including unilateral or bilateral pain. CONTRAINDICATIONS Diathermy - Energy from diathermy can be transferred through the implanted system and cause tissue damage resulting in severe injury or death. WARNINGS Sources of electromagnetic interference (e.g., defibrillation, electrocautery, MRI, RF ablation, and therapeutic ultrasound) can interact with the system, resulting in unexpected changes in stimulation, serious patient injury or death. An implanted cardiac device (e.g., pacemaker, defibrillator) may damage a neurostimulator, and electrical pulses from the neurostimulator may cause inappropriate response of the cardiac device. PRECAUTIONS Safety and effectiveness has not been established for pediatric use, pregnancy, unborn fetus, or delivery. Avoid activities that put stress on the implanted neurostimulation system components. Recharging a rechargeable neurostimulator may result in skin irritation or redness near the implant site. ADVERSE EVENTS May include: undesirable change in stimulation (uncomfortable, jolting or shocking); hematoma, epidural hemorrhage, paralysis, seroma, infection, erosion, device malfunction or migration, pain at implant site, loss of pain relief, and other surgical risks.

Refer to for product manuals for complete indications, contraindications, warnings, precautions and potential adverse events. Rx only. Rev 0119

  1. Dahlhamer J, Lucas J, Zelaya C, et al. Prevalence of Chronic Pain and High-Impact Chronic Pain Among Adults — United States, 2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Published Sept. 14, 2018
  2. Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in drug and opioid-involved overdose deaths - United States, 2010-2015. MMWR 444Morb Mortal Weekly rep. 2016; 65(50–51); 1445–1452.
  3. Fishman M, Cordner H, Justiz R, et al. 12-month results from multicenter, open-label, randomized controlled clinical trial comparing differential target multiplexed spinal cord stimulation and traditional spinal cord stimulation in subjects with chronic intractable back pain and leg pain. Pain Pract. 2021; 00: 1– 12. doi: 10.1111/papr.13066. Epub ahead of print.

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