UnitedHealthcare extends coverage to Abbott’s neurostimulation therapy for nerve pain

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February 9, 2022 – Abbott announced that UnitedHealthcare (UHC) has updated its ‘Implanted Electrical Stimulator for Spinal Cord’ medical policy to expand patient access to Abbott’s dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurostimulation devices for people suffering from chronic pain when medical policy criteria are met. This updated medical policy covers 26 million UHC commercial members and will go into effect on March 1, 2022. 

UnitedHealthcare’s new coverage assessment provides access to Abbott’s non-opioid DRG stimulation, the world’s only neurostimulator specifically designed to treat complex nerve pain conditions caused by complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or peripheral causalgia, which are forms of chronic pain that that affect the lower extremities up to the hips, including the pelvis, after an injury or surgery. An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from chronic pain for whom DRG stimulation represents an important new treatment option. 

CRPS and causalgia usually follow trauma, amputation, or surgery, such as hernia repair, knee or hip replacement, and result in chronic burning or stinging pain, numbness, hypersensitivity to touch, and chronic persistent pain in the lower limbs. These conditions have historically been challenging to treat because of the disruption in how the nervous system processes or transmits pain signals often resulting in long-lasting disabling chronic pain. 

DRG therapy works by stimulating the dorsal root ganglia (DRG), a bundle of nerves located on the outside of the spinal cord. These nerve structures along the spinal column are made up of densely populated sensory nerves, and act like traffic lights, regulating signals and sensations that travel through nerve fibers along the spinal column to the brain. DRG stimulation therapy involves implanting a small battery device, typically in the abdomen or buttock, and running thin insulated wires, called leads, near the DRG. The leads deliver electrical pulses to the nerves, which block pain signals from traveling to the spinal cord and the brain thereby reducing pain in specific locations in the body. 

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