A medical device called a stimulator implant can give some people relief from chronic pain. The problem, however, is, once the device is in place, patients cannot get MRI screenings. A new type of implant may change that.

Simple trips to the mailbox and walking the dog were almost unbearable for John Garvin.

"A burning pain is probably the worst type of pain you could have,” he said.
Garvin has lived with this pain for more than 20 years. It started in his feet and traveled to his legs.

"Oh, I remember his feet sticking out of the sheets and, if I happened to accidently hit his toes, he would just yell, ‘Oh, oh,’ really loud,” said Sherry Garvin, John’s wife.

The pain was due to a peripheral neuropathy. Garvin shuffled as he walked and quickly wore out his shoe soles. Researchers at Ohio State University recommended the Sure-scan MRI neurostimulation system because Garvin would need to continue MRI scans.

"What it does is it blocks the impulses going through the spinal cord to the brain,” said Dr. Milind Deogaonkar of Ohio State.

The device has a protective coating on the metal and prevents tissue burn. 

In the past, patients with stimulator implants could not have MRI screenings.

"It kind of absorbs the heat, which generates around the contacts, and spreads it over the length of the lead,” said Deogaonkar.

That allows doctors to better treat patients.

"I feel a lot better,” said Garvin.

"He sleeps with his feet under the covers,” his wife said.

Experts say the device will give millions of patients like Garvin a chance to walk through life with a little less pain, while still being able to monitor other health problems.