North Wales medic travels world pioneering new pain relief treatment

April 2015

Dr Thomas Haag, a consultant in pain medicine at the private Spire Yale Hospital in Wrexham, has taken part in a series of workshops across mainland Europe and as far afield as Australia.

The treatment has achieved “significant results” in patients deemed suitable for the therapy, which uses high frequency radiowaves to target sensory nerves to relieve hip, knee, back and neck pain.

Along with London and Bristol, Wrexham was one of just three UK centres offering the treatment, which specifically targets knee and hip pain, after it was first introduced about two years ago.

Dr Haag explained: “It is used to treat pain caused by arthritis, accidental injury or discomfort following knee or hip replacement surgery.

“It’s not designed to replace surgery but we may be able to help a patient that really does not want to undergo surgery or a patient who is perhaps considered too old or young for surgery.

“We can perhaps help patients that have undergone knee or hip replacement surgery where, in pain relief terms, the surgery simply hasn’t worked.

“We know from studies that about 20 per cent of patients who underwent knee replacement, are still left with often considerable pain for which there has so far not been good treatment options available.”

Dr Haag says the new treatment , called sensory nerve radio frequency denervation, is only undertaken following a thorough assessment of the patient by his clinical team.

He said: “The treatment may, but not always, feature injections into the knee joint using a steroid. I would then treat the patient using a denervation procedure, taking out specific nerve endings through the use of radiowaves.

“There is no numbness and the radiowaves are used to target only those nerves that process pain. Initially I would complete a test block on a patient that I consider suitable for the procedure.

“This is done, in theatre, under X-ray guidance and only takes around 20 minutes with the patient not requiring general anaesthetic and able to go home following treatment.

“The hospital then contacts the patient a few days later to establish if there has been a significant decrease in pain experienced from the knee or hip we have treated.

“If the answer is yes, and there has been a significant decrease in pain, the patient is invited back to the hospital.

“I would then further treat those particular sensory nerves by means of targeting them with a radio frequency with the hope of significant ongoing pain relief.

“We have seen some patients who report they are now totally pain-free following treatment.

“We also have patients reporting a significant reduction in pain more than 12 months after treatment. And, while we have been mainly treating knee joint pain, we are able to use the same treatment for hip, back and neck pain.”

Such has been the success of the treatment Dr Haag is now involved running workshops for medics across Europe and even Australia.

He added: “A colleague in Germany has been involved treating patients with the denervation process for some time, longer than me in fact. I contacted him and we set up a workshop, which was very quickly over-subscribed.

“Since then we have run five workshops across mainland Europe and I have been invited to attend a workshop in Perth, Western Australia later in the year.

“There is huge interest in this therapy and the data being gathered is clearly showing it is a valuable and simple treatment producing incredible results for the right patient.”

Clinical physiotherapist Grevin Jones, who works alongside Dr Haag, says the treatment isn’t just about denervation therapy.

He said: “When it comes to knee joints pain often results from a combination of problems that have been present over a long period of time.

He said: “The patient may have developed ways of coping with the pain such as developing a limp. This could lead to muscle loss, joint stiffness and symptoms developing in other areas such as low back pain or hip.

“It is important alongside the procedure that we address these factors to maximise its effects. Hopefully by addressing these we can achieve as full a function in the knee as possible providing marked improvements in the quality of life for the individual.”

Sue Jones, the hospital’s director, is delighted to be able to offer this new treatment at Spire Yale hospital.

She said: “Whilst there is no such thing as a magic wand, Dr Haag and his team have achieved some fantastic results and the vast majority of patients are discharged from the pain service within a few weeks.

“Pain severely impacts every aspect of a patient’s life which is why we have to take a multi-disciplinary, holistic approach. Treatment plans are formulated on a bespoke basis for individual patients - what is right for one patient may not be right for another.

"This new treatment can be life-changing for patients. It has the potential to make a real difference to the quality of life of the patients.”

Source - Daily Post

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