NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - The common denominator behind many diseases is inflammation, and while powerful anti-inflammatory drugs help, they often have serious side effects.
Now medical experts say a tiny battery-powered stimulator could do the same thing for people suffering from inflammation-related diseases, reports CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez.
Take the case of 29-year-old Kelly Owens, a young woman who looks like the picture of health - a vast improvement over a year ago. Owens was suffering from severe inflammatory arthritis and Crohn's disease, an affliction that started when she was in middle school.
"It was a lot of abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea," recalls Owens "I was leaving class and having to go to the bathroom 20 times a day."
Numerous powerful anti-inflammatory medicines failed to control her Crohn's or her arthritis, which sometimes landed her in a wheelchair.
Her remarkable transformation was thanks to an early version of a tiny nerve stimulator that shut down the inflammation underlying both Owens' Crohn's and arthritis.
"We are able to make devices that use electric current to hack into the signals in the body's nerves and to turn on the anti-inflammatory signal in the nerve to stop the inflammation," said Dr. Kevin Tracey.
Tracey pioneered this entirely new way to modulate inflammation through bio-electronic medicine at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health on Long Island.
The key is the vagus nerve, a large bundle of fibers that innervates internal organs throughout the body. By placing a very low-power stimulator on the nerve in the neck, doctors can activate the nerves that go to the spleen where they release chemicals to shut down the inflammatory cells there.
"Patients with drug refractory rumitoid arthritis had very significant reductions in their disease activity, which was maintained for up to two years," said Dr. David Chernoff.
This nerve stimulator developed by Setpoint Medical is much smaller than the one in Owens' body. It just takes a small incision to place it alongside the vagus nerve in the neck.
And the result?
"Vagus nerve stimulation has been a miracle to me," she said.
The new and improved nerve stimulator is programmable and uses so little power to activate the right nerves that it's rechargeable by simply wearing a collar from time to time.
It takes only a few minutes of stimulation several times day to stop the inflammation.
Fore more information, click here or contact Dr. Diane Horowitz at 516-708-2550.
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