• By Dana Sparks

Sharing Mayo Clinic: Spinal cord stimulator ends 17 years of chronic pain

January 26, 2020

When Blake Sunde collided head-on with a snowmobile in 2003, he suffered a devastating injury. The network of nerves that sent signals from Blake's spinal cord to his shoulder, arm and hand — known as the brachial plexus — was ripped apart.

When he was thrown from his vehicle, Blake's shoulder, head and neck were stretched in opposite directions. "That put traction on the nerve roots, and several were pulled out of the spinal cord, including those that control the hand," says Allen Bishop, M.D., a Mayo Clinic orthopedic hand and microsurgery specialist who was part of Blake's care team.

Doctors in the emergency department at the Fargo, North Dakota, hospital where Blake sought care referred him to the Brachial Plexus Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. After the accident, Blake, who was 20 years old, was unable to extend his right arm or his fingers. He also was in terrible pain and had to take two types of opioid medication to help him bear it.

"In cases like Blake's, the spinal cord injury sends pain signals to the brain that are often chronic and, at times, severe," Dr. Bishop says.

Read the rest of Blake's story.

This article originally appeared on the Sharing Mayo Clinic blog.