Thursday Media Briefing on COVID-19

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The University of Kansas Health System reports an increase in the number of COVID patients today. Twenty-two patients with the active virus are being treated, the same as yesterday and only two are vaccinated. Nine patients are in the ICU, also the same as yesterday. Four are on ventilators, up from three yesterday. Twenty-five other patients are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, down from 27 yesterday. That’s a total of 47 patients, down from 49 yesterday. HaysMed reports a total of 12 COVID patients – eight active and four recovering.
Chronic pain affects about 50 million adults each year and many of these adults are dealing with this on a daily basis. There is a new FDA-approved device helping some people take that pain away. And that approval was based on a trial conducted at The University of Kansas Health System. On today’s Morning Medical Update, Dr. Dawood Sayed, division chief, pain medicine and vice chairman of the board at the American Society of Pain and Neuroscience, joined to talk about a patient who was in the trial.
Winston Pelfrey had six years of chronic and debilitating pain – he had to walk with a walker and faced excruciating sensations of being poked with needles from the bottom of his feet to his knees. Two years after being asked to participate in the Health System’s trial, Winston is 100 percent pain-free.
Dr. Sayed explained how Winston was outfitted with a spinal cord stimulator specially targeting diabetic neuropathy. This is an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs that help manage pain. He said that the opioid crisis has completely changed how doctors are approaching pain management.
“I think there’s been a bigger focus for moving away from opioids and looking at alternative treatments,” said Dr. Sayed. “The medications weren’t really working for him.”
Dr. Sayed said that finding a new plan for Winston was important for his quality of life and the need to live pain-free. Installing the device was not going to be intensive. “It’s kind of like a pacemaker,” said Dr. Sayed. “All the hardware and technology look very similar. The device is implanted under the skin.”
Community questions that came in asked about the use of this technology for arthritis in the back. “That’s really the original intention for spinal cord stimulators,” said Dr. Sayed. “It’s probably the number one reason we implant them in our Spine Center – for lower back pain.”
Another question was about patients who get injections in the back to help with pain – would they be candidates for this device? Dr. Sayed said it is important to evaluate what the patient is doing right now in terms of treatment. If it’s not having any effect and the criteria is right, then the patient might be ideal for this device. He also underlined ways to avoid getting into this situation in the first place.
“Diet, exercise, being active, being healthy, trying to avoid high stressors in your life – I think those things, if you do develop an injury that can cause pain, you don’t drop into a kind of chronic severe debilitating pain,” he said. Having a healthy lifestyle now can help whenever you encounter an injury like a herniated disc in the back. He said people who have healthier habits usually recover more quickly and with less pain.
“Chronic pain is something that’s widely prevalent. If we’re not experiencing it ourselves, we all probably know someone that is,” said Dr. Sayed. “I think we need to increase the awareness for a lot of these other treatments that are out there.”
Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer at The University of Kansas Health System and ana Hawkinson, MD, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control also answered questions about the recent news on COVID-19 vaccine boosters, especially the announcement about mixing and matching vaccines.
“I think they’re mix and matching because they’re letting people make a choice because the data is good and they want to get as many people vaccinated as they can,” said Dr. Hawkinson.
Dr. Stites agreed, encouraging people to be maximally protected. “The bottom line is this: go get what you’re comfortable with. Just go get it. They’re all going to be really good, so take the ones available to you and the one you’re most comfortable taking.”

Friday, October 22 at 8:00 a.m. is the next Morning Medical Update. It is Follow-Up Friday where we will answer additional questions from viewers, along with Amanda Cackler, Director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System.
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