UAE: Man with chronic pain gets new lease on life with implant that blocks pain signals

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi Filed on October 4, 2021

(Supplied photos)

Since undergoing the procedure, Abdulla El Hashdy has experienced an 80 per cent reduction in his pain

There was a time when Abdulla El Hashdy felt disconnected from the world. Medications, diabetes and pain dominated his life.

But now, the 29-year-old Emirati is rejoicing after doctors at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi used an innovative surgical implant to block pain signals and bring him relief.

For more than a decade, Abdulla, who works as a financial analyst in Abu Dhabi, had been battling debilitating chronic pain. His pain was caused by a combination of three different medical conditions.

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2010, Abdulla has metabolic myopathy and myalgia paresthetica.

These conditions combined to cause nerve pain in his upper and lower limbs alongside muscle ache and a burning sensation. Despite going to several doctors in the UAE and US, he continued to experience severe pain as well as a range of side effects from his medications.

“My life was being eaten up by medications, diabetes and pain. I started to feel that my illness was in total control of my life. I couldn’t plan any activities because of the pain and my medications didn’t ease it for free — I had to pay a very heavy price. They clouded my mind and made me feel disconnected from the world,” Abdulla said.

He visited Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi after learning about the hospital’s dedicated pain clinic.

Dr Reda Tolba, department chair of pain management, said: “When Abdulla first came to us, it was clear he was really suffering. He was facing a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions that combined to cause unbearable pain. His medications weren’t working effectively and the side effects were taking a real toll. We tried a variety of approaches before settling on an innovative new form of spinal cord stimulation.”

Differential target multiplexed spinal cord stimulation is an advanced form of spinal cord stimulation that can block persistent pain signals.

The device, implanted under the patient’s skin near the spine, uses electrodes to activate both neurons in the spinal cord and glial cells to retrain the body to block persistent pain signals.

Since undergoing the procedure and having the device adjusted to his individual needs, Abdulla has experienced an 80 per cent reduction in his pain.

“Since having it installed, my life has changed completely, the pain is disappearing from my life. I’m an adventurous person and now I can go back to doing the things I love, including skydiving,” Abdulla said.

After his surgery, Abdulla has been able to reduce the amount of medication.

“Pain is a very hard thing to live with because very few people can understand what it’s like. They see you taking medication and think you are weak or enjoy the effects. I still take medication, but only when the pain beats both me and the device, which is a rare case,” Abdulla said.


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Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s interventional pain department, part of the hospital’s Anaesthesiology Institute offers a wide variety of minimally invasive procedures to help patients suffering from chronic pain and reduce their need for pain killers.

“Reducing people’s reliance on pain killers is an important part of the relief we aim to provide our patients. Side effects like mental fogginess or sedation can have a dramatic impact on a person’s quality of life. In addition, as can be seen in the US, long-term use of certain pain medications can lead to addiction, which is a serious threat to public health,” Dr Reda added.


Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.