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Chronic Pain Treatments a Different Kind of 'Fun'
By Lois Thomson

Some people might like to watch a Steeler game or go to the theater for fun. But Dr. Michael Fussell has a different idea of fun. That's not to say he wouldn't enjoy those activities. But when it comes to his area of practice, he thinks it's kind of fun doing injections and implanting spinal cord stimulators.

If that sounds odd, you have to understand that Dr. Fussell is an interventional pain management specialist, and he works with patients who are experiencing chronic pain. He pointed out, "Most of my patients are referred from other physicians, which means they have typically done conservative treatment before they get to me."

Dr. Fussell, who is private practice and on staff at The Washington Hospital and TriState Surgery Center, said he treats chronic pain "pretty much everywhere" in the body, and described some of the methods he uses: "Nerve root blocks are shots where you pick out a specific nerve. I isolate the nerve with dye and inject an anesthetic and a steroid. The steroid usually decreases the inflammation and irritation and gives some long-term relief, and the anesthetic will give instant pain relief. So the pain they typically came in with, they won't leave with it.

"Facets are joints in your back and there's a little nerve that goes to each joint. I put an anesthetic on that nerve. So it's like going to a dentist, where if you get a shot right on that nerve of the tooth that's bothering you, you don't have the pain any more. If I block that nerve and your pain goes away, that means that nerve is your problem."

Dr. Fussell said he became interested in pain management when he did a month-long rotation during his training in physical medicine and rehabilitation. "I really liked it, because I got to see that a lot of people were actually benefiting from the things I was doing, and that appealed to me."

"Plus, I like doing the injections. I like the technical component of it. It can be interesting, because doing spinal cord stimulator trials, you have to actually thread an electrical lead along the spinal column. It's kind of fun trying to find those nerves that control your leg as they come directly off the spinal cord. You're threading that little catheter and you can actually see it going up the spinal cord on a live X-ray."

That might not be your idea of fun; but if you're suffering from the pain, no doubt you'd like to have Dr. Fussell take care of it."

For more information, call 724-222-5471 or visit www.washingtonhospital.org

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