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VA Augusta first VA in country to use innovative tech to reduce chronic pain

Dr. Marshall Bedder prepares to use the Axon device.
Dr. Marshall Bedder, VA Augusta’s Chief of Pain Management, prepares to use the Axon Therapy device.

VA Augusta Health Care System is the first VA in the country to use Axon Therapy, which uses a high-powered, non-invasive device to target peripheral nerve stimulation to reduce chronic pain in Veterans.

Dr. Marshall Bedder, VA Augusta’s Chief of Pain Management, championed the research and coined the term mPNS to refer to magnetic peripheral nerve stimulation. He presented the results of his use of Axon Therapy at the January 2023 North American Neuromodulation Society annual, demonstrating how it led to both pain reduction and decreased opioid use among Veteran patients.

“Some of our Veterans have only needed to be treated a couple times and have seen such durable results, they haven’t needed to come back in for further treatment,” said Dr. Marshall Bedder, a Navy combat Veteran with more than 30 years of pain medicine management.

Bedder, who also serves as an associate professor and Director of the Addiction Medicine Fellowship program at Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, said Axon Therapy delivers strong magnetic, low-frequency pulsed stimulation to affected nerves leading to chronic pain. It’s non-invasive, painless, and more powerful than electrical stimulation.

The device is 10,000 times stronger than any wearable magnetic device on the market today. Axon Therapy has a strength of up to 1.3 Tesla (the unit of measurement for the magnetic flux density). In comparison, overall MRI field strength is in the region of 1.5-4 Tesla, so Axon therapy delivers a significant magnetic field and does so in a brief 13.5-minute treatment sessions with no notable side effects.

“When you have chronic pain, pain messages are being sent to your brain every minute,” said Bedder. “Over time, it changes the synaptic makeup. When the Axon magnetic waveform comes in, evidence shows it reverses some of those negative synaptic connections that were formed from pain.”

Since May 2022, Bedder and his team have provided Axon Therapy to Veterans at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Georgia, and it’s proven to dramatically reduce neuropathic-related pain over long periods of time. In January 2023, VA Augusta Health Care System signed a contract with NeuraLace Medical totaling $1.5 million over five years to treat Veterans with this innovative, non-invasive solution.

One combat Veteran who traveled from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, to VA Augusta to receive Axon Therapy for his chronic pain said the treatment provided so much relief he was able to do a bike ride with former President George W. Bush. The former president invites wounded Veterans to his Texas ranch to do a 110-kilometer ride each year.

"It is very exciting to provide Veterans a safe alternative Therapy with sustained relief of pain and no risk of harmful side effects like those seen with opioids,” said Vanessa Croley, VA Augusta’s Pain Management, Opioid Safety, and Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMOP) Coordinator. “This innovation brings new hope to Veterans and the loved ones who care for them."

The entrepreneurial approach supported by the Veterans Health Administration has been foundational in the development of Axon Therapy. The technology was developed at San Diego VA in the early 2010s, followed by the formation of an investor-funded private company called NeuraLace Medical to commercialize Axon Therapy. Since that time, Axon Therapy has been cleared by the FDA, proving its effectiveness by ongoing data being published, but most importantly, this VA-originated technology is helping VA Augusta patients with chronic pain every single day.

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