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Local doctor first to perform procedure

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, March 10, 2012

TEXAS' FIRST - Dr. Chad Stephens prepares to burn a nerve in the hip-pelvis joint of a patient in January. Stephens was the first doctor in Texas to use the latest equipment to perform a multiple cooled radiofrequency ablation of the sacroiliac joint.

Dr. Chad Stephens is the first doctor in Texas to use a landmark procedure to relieve patients’ hip pain.

Stephens is a triple board certified physician in pain medicine and sports medicine and the president of North Texas Spine and Sport in Decatur. In January, he performed a multiple cooled radiofrequency ablation of the sacroiliac joint, the hip-pelvis joint.

Although he did not invent the procedure, he was the first to utilize the latest equipment that provides hip/pelvis pain relief in the quickest manner.

“What’s monumental is not the procedure itself, but that it was the first done in Texas with the new system,” Stephens said. “They came out with a machine to do more than one. It shortened a 45-minute process to 15 minutes. It may not seem like a big deal. But it is. It’s a safety thing, a convenience.”

One of those conveniences is a reduction in the need for anesthesia, an important safety factor for some patients.

“The quicker the procedure, the less anesthesia you need,” Stephens said. “So you cut back on that.”

During the minimally-invasive process, Stephens burns the nerves in the sacroiliac joint with internally cooled radiofrequency probes along the patient’s posterior.

According to Stephens, radiofrequency energy generates heat in the surrounding tissue while internal cooling of the electrode probe moderates the temperature near the tip.

This combination creates several spherical-shape lesions for treating multiple targets without effecting surrounding tissue.

Before, the eight nerves in the joint were burned individually for two-and-a-half minutes each. Having to adjust the probes after each ablation for all eight nerves easily doubled the amount of time the procedure took compared to the current modality.

“To be quite honest, it was a little cumbersome,” Stephens said. “Now we can do multiple at once. There are all different ways to do this, all in the interest of doing it quickly and conveniently for the patient.”

Some alternatives include steroid shots. However, Stephens said the effect of those shots wear off much quicker than denervation.

“Steroid shots eliminate the sensation for about two to three months,” he said. “But it will take a year or two until the nerve regenerates (after ablasion).

“(An ablasion) can be done as many times as it needs to be done,” Stephens continued. “Depending on a patient’s anatomy and pain severity, the average person goes for two treatments. It provides relief to allow patients to go off their pain medicine and is a new innovation that adds to the modalities we can offer patients at North Texas Spine and Sport.

“It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s something patients will appreciate.”

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