A Gainesville man was the first person in Florida to receive a new spinal implant that significantly reduces head-to-toe chronic pain.

Felix Favicchio, 58, went through a procedure on Sept. 27 to receive the Proclaim XR pain-suppressing device. The implant is made up of a small battery pack under the skin of the lower back area and a set of wires that extend up the spine.

Just like a pacemaker, the battery produces low amounts of electrical energy that can help ease pain. The device targets the nerves in the spinal cord that relay the pain.  

The device was developed by Abbott Laboratories, a medical technology company with branches across the country. Dr. Ajay Antony, an assistant professor of pain medicine and UF Health anesthesiologist, performed the procedure.

The device, which has been used successfully in other parts of the U.S., could help reduce use of opioid medicines because it resolves the pain opioids are prescribed for, Antony said.

“It changes the way that the body perceives pain,” he said. 

This device is different from other pain reducing implant models because it has been approved by the FDA for up to 10 years of use without recharging, unlike others which had to be recharged several times per week, he said.

The device has such a long battery life because it produces only the lowest amount of energy required to help the pain, he said.

“You could think of it similarly to a medication, right? You only want to take the lowest effective dose,” Antony said.

Older models caused a “pleasant tingling sensation” in the area of pain, but this device eliminates any uncomfortable feeling because of its programming, Antony said. 

The device itself costs more than $20,000 but can be covered by insurance, he said.

Favicchio, the patient, began having chronic pain after an on-the-job construction accident in New Jersey when he was 24 and doing heavy-duty work. He has had pain in his back and his leg ever since, which caused him to retire from his job as a property manager 10 years ago.

“Before, I was miserable every day,” he said. “I spent all the time in bed because I was in pain. Nobody could talk to me because I was mad all the time.” 

He said his son-in-law received a similar implant a few years ago and told him to look into having the procedure done. After the procedure in September, Favicchio said his injuries now cause him no discomfort. 

“I said, ‘I don’t want to live like that, in pain every day,’” he said. “But now, I’m looking forward to doing everything like I used to.”

He said he was excited to be the first person in Florida to get the implant, but he wants other people to know how much the procedure has changed his experiences. 

“It’s like water on fire,” he said. “I’m another person.”

Before receiving any implant devices, patients go through a trial period and adjust to a temporary device and the way it feels, Antony said. Then, they come back for a minimally invasive procedure to receive the implant.

Since Favicchio’s treatment, Dr. Antony has performed between five to 10 similar procedures, which he said are very common in his practice. However, he said he wishes more people knew the device was available.

“There aren't that many physicians or physician groups who are on the forefront of these new technology advancements,” he said. “And so there probably are a lot of patients out there who don't know that some of these things are options for them.”