“I was being dumb,” he said. “When the doctors tell you to rest, you’re young, strong, thought you were Superman and you pay the price later.”
Hilsabeck, 48, is among the 100 million Americans, according to the Institute of Medicine, who suffer from this medical condition, which affects more people than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined.
The regional sales manager from Diamond Bar, CA has tried everything short of surgery to alleviate the pain, but none have worked.
“I’ve tried lidocaine patches, acupunctures, chiropractic, pharmaceuticals — anything to help the pain,” he said. “The threshold just goes up and the prescription medicine doesn’t take of care the pain anymore.”
Hilsabeck is not alone. Approximately 2 million back-pain sufferers fail to respond to conservative therapies each year, according to Dr. Phil Yuan, an orthopedic surgeon at Memorial Orthopaedic Surgical Group.
A former Jordan High School athlete, Hilsabeck thought that his only other option was surgery, but having seen a friend’s complications from back surgery gave him second thoughts.
“It’s your spine,” he said. “I’m scared of having by back operated on.”
The chronic back pain is having a detrimental effect on Hilsabeck’s life. His pain is constant all day long and makes it hard for him to get a goodnight’s sleep. He’s spent a small fortune, he said, on beds and sleeping pills.
It was through chance that Hilsabeck stumbled upon an experimental clinical study that Yuan and his group is testing called Intracept Basivertebral Nerve Ablation Procedure. Hilsabeck had read about the procedure in the in-flight magazine during a trip to South Carolina.
The procedure is a minimally invasive therapy that uses radiofrequency energy delivered through a small access tube into the spin to ablate (destroy with heat) the basivertebral nerve — nerves in the spinal column. The procedure is very safe, Yuan said.
“We make a small stab incision in the lower back, oblate the nerve and put on a Band-Aid,” he said. Once ablated, the nerve will no longer be able to transmit pain signals. The treatment takes approximately one hour to complete and patients are back to work the next day, he said.
Compared that to some of the other traditional back surgeries, which could take weeks or months to recover and have a much higher risk of infection, Yuan said.
Yuan’s clinic is the one of only two in Southern California participating in the double blind study called, Surgical Multi-center Assessment of RF Ablation for the Treatment of Vertebrogenic Back Pain or SMART.
Hilsabeck is a candidate for the study, though he has not had the procedure done. Patients participating in the study are not allowed to talk to the media about their experience to avoid contaminating the results of the trial.
To qualify for the study, participants must be between the ages of 25 and 70, have at least six months of chronic lower-back pain, have not responded to at least six months of non-operative conservative management and have had no previous surgery performed on the lumbar spine among others.
Individuals interested in additional information on the SMART study are encouraged to visit smartclinicalstudy.com, or call (888) 978-8396.