Loma Linda University Health clinic is the first in U.S. state of California to allow patients to try spinal cord stimulation with a revolutionary trial system

Loma Linda University Health clinic is the first in U.S. state of California to allow patients to try spinal cord stimulation with a revolutionary trial system

Vivienne Douglass reviews the settings of her spinal cord stimulation therapy on her wireless device during a routine check up with her pain management physician, Dr. Scott Strum, at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus on Thursday, January 7. [Photo courtesy of Loma Linda University Health]

The new wireless trial system, which is incorporated with Bluetooth® wireless technology and Apple™ digital devices, is designed to help chronic pain patients.

January 28, 2016


Loma Linda, California, United States


Loma Linda University Health Staff


A Loma Linda University Health clinic is the first in the U.S. state of California to allow patients to trial spinal cord stimulation with the new St. Jude Medical™ Invisible Trial System. St. Jude Medical is an American company that creates medical devices for health institutions worldwide. The new system is fully wireless and leverages Bluetooth® wireless technology and Apple™ digital devices, and is designed to provide patients an improved and discreet spinal cord stimulation (SCS) trial experience.

Vivienne Douglass, a 63-year-old nurse from Redlands, was the first to evaluate SCS therapy with the new trial System in November at Highland Springs Surgery Center, part of Highland Springs Medical Plaza. Prior to undergoing an SCS therapy trial and eventually being implanted with a St. Jude Medical Protege impulse generator in December, Douglass had battled chronic pain for 21 years after she was attacked by a patient while working in 1994.  

“I wasn’t able to enjoy walking, going places with my family or even sitting without pain in my car,” said Douglass, who had had four spine surgeries and seen six doctors before coming to Loma Linda. “No one had ever proposed the use of spinal cord stimulation until I met Dr. Strum.” 

Scott Strum, MD, pain management physician at Loma Linda University Medical Center is excited to be able to offer patients a more intuitive, effective and discreet way to evaluate spinal cord stimulation therapy that has prioritized allowing chronic pain patients to focus on potential pain relief.

“Rather than learning a new system throughout their trial period,” said Strum, “the St. Jude Medical Invisible Trial System allows my patients to look past their pain and has eliminated programming cables and complex patient controllers typical of traditional trialling systems.” 

For many patients, SCS therapy can be an effective option for managing chronic pain. The therapy relies on a small implanted device and thin wires (known as leads) to deliver low levels of electrical energy to mask or interrupt pain signals as they travel along nerve fibers to the brain, which reduces the sensation of pain. Loma Linda University Medical Center has been offering SCS therapy for 15 years. 

Prior to receiving a permanently implanted SCS device, patients undergo a minimally invasive trial period to evaluate the therapy. Yet for some patients, complex controllers and bulky programming cables can disrupt the trial experience and act as barrier to SCS therapy. The St. Jude Medical Invisible Trial System removes such barriers, allowing patients to more effectively evaluate SCS therapy. The system’s Bluetooth wireless technology provides patients a safe, secure and wireless trial experience, while an iPod™ touch digital device serves as a patient controller that offers patients a simple, familiar platform to adjust their therapy. 

One of the key system features lending to the discreet nature of the trial system is the use of a small external pulse generator (EPG) as the system’s power source. Because the EPG uses Bluetooth wireless technology to communicate between the patient’s iPod touch controller and the stimulation system, the overall device profile has been reduced so the system can be worn discreetly under a patient’s clothing. The effect is that the system feels essentially “invisible” to the wearer, providing a more comfortable trial experience that allows patients to focus entirely on the system’s therapeutic impact during the trial. 

“Spinal cord stimulation is a proven, effective therapy for treating chronic pain in my patients, but without an effective trial system many patients are unable to properly evaluate the therapy,” said Strum. “By providing access to a new trial system, St. Jude Medical is enabling more patients to gain access to a therapy that could bring about meaningful chronic pain relief and improved quality of life.” 

Since the initial procedure in November, Douglass has had nothing but positive results. “For the first time in years, I can now go shopping with my daughter and be active with my grandchildren.” she said, “Thanks to Dr. Strum, I have my life back.”


Note: Apple, iPod touch, and iPad mini are trademarks of Apple, Inc. Bluetooth is a trademark of Bluetooth SIG, Inc.

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