UAMS Pain Study Device Gets Amputee off the Couch

By David Robinson

“My pain started about a month after the amputation, and it just gradually got worse and worse,” Jackson said. “If I spent any length of time on my residual limb it caused the pain to become unbearable.”

Born with a mild form of cerebral palsy, he spent years trying to save his leg, which kept twisting inward despite several surgeries. After the decision to have it amputated, he has endured a long battle with pain.

“I tried all sorts of different opioids and narcotics – prescribed of course,” the Harrison resident said. “I’ve tried meditation, yoga, massage; I’ve tried acupuncture, acupressure, hydrotherapy, heat therapy, cold therapy, you name it – I’ve tried it and nothing worked.”

Then in spring 2018, a friend learned of a study at UAMS that was testing surgically implanted devices to help control amputation pain. Jackson had tried other experimental therapies without success, so he was skeptical.

“She said, ‘worst case scenario, it doesn’t work,’ so I submitted my information,” he said.

Erika Petersen, M.D., a neurosurgeon and associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Neurosurgery, is leading the study at UAMS. She implanted the device, which includes a cuff electrode coiled around the sciatic nerve, and a generator, which is similar to a pacemaker. Together they deliver an electrical signal to the nerve.

The study, including Jackson’s follow-up care for a year after surgery, was staffed by the UAMS Translational Research Institute.

On his final visit with the clinical research coordinator, Jackson said he was glad he made the decision to participate.

“My result is beyond satisfying,” he said.

While not pain free, he can manage it. On a scale of 1 – 10, Jackson said his pain was previously at a six or seven, but some days it would hit eight, nine and sometimes 10 – when he would lose consciousness.

“Today my average pain level is about a four, maybe a five,” he said. “I still have bad days where I’m bouncing up to a seven or an eight.”

The reduced pain has allowed Jackson to exercise like never before. “I go to the gym five to six days a week and I walk an average of five miles a day,” he said. “My personal record is 24 miles in a single day.”

Jackson has also lost 70 pounds since receiving the implant.

“I now have the mobility to do more daily activities around the house that were too painful for me to do before the implant,” he said.

The study is still enrolling participants. To learn more, visit To see if you are eligible for the study, call the Translational Research Institute clinical trial research coordinators office, 501-398-8622.