Modern nerve stimulators to kill pain

TENS device with a remote control unit

Managing pain may one day be as easy as sticking on a Band-AidTM. Russian researchers at the company BIOFIL Ltd. in Sarov are developing a line of miniature transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices that work as a non-drug alternative to pain relief and are small enough for patients to use without hindering daily life.

TENS technology is an accepted (FDA approved) and effective way to handle acute or chronic pain associated with diseases affecting muscles and joints. There are no known side effects and it is not addictive, but does require a physician’s prescription. A standard device consists of an electric pulse generator and connecting electrodes that are placed directly on the skin in the painful area. Electric pulses are applied and travel through the skin to the target area. The device, however, never penetrates the skin and provides non-invasive therapy.

Currently, TENS devices are expensive, bulky, and heavy, which has limited their use to hospitals and outpatient centers. The BIOFIL product line of miniature devices allows the patients to use the unit during their daily routines. The patient can vary the intensity of the electric pulses by manipulating a control unit that features an LCD display and push-button controls.

The product line includes devices that may be applied as a small Band-AidTM-like adhesive containing expendable stimulating electrodes. In a similar concept, the BIOFIL group is also designing orthopedic splints, brackets, and bandages with built-in stimulators. A third type of model gives the patient “remote control” of a pain region.

The group at BIOFIL Ltd., a 1991 spin-off of the Russian Federal Nuclear Center VNIIEF, began developing the miniature TENS devices in 1998 in cooperation with Lawrence Livermore Laboratories (Washington, DC) and Cyclotec Medical Industries, Inc. (Lauderhill, FL). Following this work, Livermore Lab and BIOFIL received funding from the Department of Energy IPP program for a 2-year ISTC project beginning in 2002. Research at BIOFIL will further develop the TENS technology for their portable biomedical devices, perform pilot runs for clinical testing, and prepare for production and commercialization, in cooperation with the U.S. industry partner, Cyclotec Medical Industries.

The target markets for the miniature TENS devices includes rehabilitation following surgery or trauma, home health care, sports medicine, industrial medicine, and emergency care.

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Alexander Ivanchenko alfa

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