Electrical stimulation helps Houston-area man walk again

It's a dramatic change for a man from Missouri City, who has been dealing with devastating knee issues for the past two decades.

Jack Pennington was confined to a wheelchair and then a walker, but is the first in Texas to try a new therapy that has him back on his feet again!


He says at first, doctors told him he would never be ambulatory, after he was seriously injured in a car accident, underwent double knee replacements in 2008, and then suffered from multiple infections. The first infection laid dormant for more than a decade.

"In May of 2019, that infection came back with a vengeance and I've had 15 surgeries since then! I'm not diabetic. I worked out five days a week. I eat pretty healthy. I don't drink, I don't smoke. It just came back. I woke up one day and my leg was the size of a basketball. It was just unbelievable," exclaims Jack.

Dr. Ankur Mehta with TX Spine and Joint explains how that can happen.

"So these new metal implants and new silicone devices and the different implants that are placed in the knee can harbor an infection. From an orthopedic surgeon standpoint, they were able to identify it and treat it, but apparently it just takes one or two colonies of bacteria to be living on that metal for it to come back. Whether you go through an illness or a downturn in your immune system, that infection will not go out," explains Dr. Mehta.

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Jack turned to Dr. Mehta to try to save his knees. The specialist shared hopeful advice and encouraged him to try a treatment that straps on to his thighs.

"This is considered a neuro-electrical stimulating device. It has these electrode pads that can send electrical current through your skin, which causes the muscle to contract. Just like I'm sure you've seen the six-pack abs devices, it’s similar to that," states Dr. Mehta.

The device was developed to contract and work out muscles, even while a patient is sitting still! It also has a high-tech microprocessor with a gyroscope built into it.

"The gyroscope can evaluate what part of the gait cycle they're in and based on that, it tells the quadriceps to contract, so that the leg can be lifted out of the way to have proper swing-through gait," says Dr. Mehta.

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Jack says in the beginning, he didn't believe it would help, but then the first sign it did, changed everything.

"I didn't really notice a lot at first, but then one day, I got in the car and realized for the first time, I didn't have to pick up my leg to put it in the car, it just lifted itself. I started laughing because I just couldn't believe I could do it. That's when I realized the device must be working," remembers Jack.

He quickly transitioned to using a cane after that.

"I can't walk long distances with it yet, but at least I can get off the walker and walk with a cane. It gives me a lot more confidence, makes me feel better! The minute you strap them on (medical devices), you feel like you need to do something. It's working! I've been walking somewhere in the neighborhood of an hour to two hours every day, five days a week," says a smiling Jack.

"We were able to use The Bioventus L360 device to essentially recover the atrophied muscle, because once the nerve dies to a muscle or the muscle shrinks beyond a certain level, it's very difficult to rehab it to the pre-injury or pre- sickness level. In our field of physical medicine, rehab and pain medicine, our goal is to get him back all the way to full function. This particular device was able to stimulate the quadriceps muscle to such a degree that he was able to regain the function," explains Dr. Mehta.

It is FDA-approved and covered by insurance, but does take an extensive exam and paperwork to get it covered, because at this point, it's an expensive treatment.

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Dr. Mehta believes this device is a step closer to even more greatness for people with mobility issues.

"I would not be surprised if within the next ten years, there's substantial headway to the point that patients are able to regain ambulation," says Dr. Mehta.

Jack says it has helped him and his wife, Leslie, regain their quality of life!

"It's been excellent for us, changed our life because I was pretty discouraged. We got our lives back. It's fun to eat in restaurants again, and we've been married for 42 years," says Jack.

"It's very gratifying to see him back in action! Our whole goal is to give the patient their quality of life back, give them their function, give them their ability to do what they love, enjoy their dogs more, go on dinner dates with their wives. These are the types of things that make the meaning of the medication, the technology, the art of medicine, the science, all come together," says Dr. Mehta.

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Similar treatments help other body parts. Click here to learn more.