Former Providence Health Care executive Michael Wilson is leading a lower back-pain study that will investigate the effectiveness of Pneumex Inc. rehabilitation equipment and its related treatment method used by Spokane-based Revita Rehab LLC.
Wilson, who operates Michael Wilson Consulting, says the Institutional Review Board here, which reviews research projects involving human subjects, approved the study in January, and the principal investigators have begun identifying potential participants.
"We want to determine whether this has the potential to reduce the number of surgical interventions for low back pain," Wilson says.
Dr. Dean Martz, a principal at Inland Neurosurgical & Spine Associates PS, is the lead investigator for the study and is working with a team that includes a neuroradiologist and a physiatrist, which is a rehabilitation medicine specialist.
Wilson says the study will involve 36 men and women between 25 years old and 65 years old who suffer from lower back pain but don't need a walker or another device to stand and walk. Candidates also must have had a magnetic resonance imaging test in the past six months but must have not undergone back surgery yet.
The people selected to participate in the study will be divided randomly into two groups. One group will receive 10 weeks of alternative physical therapy at Revita Rehab, which is located on the ground floor of the Sirti Building, on the Riverpoint Campus in Spokane's University District. The other half, the control group, will receive 10 weeks of conventional physical therapy. Throughout the course of the study, patients will undergo follow-up MRIs to gauge improvement.
Participants in the study either will be referred by physicians or will contact Revita directly, Wilson says.
Both conventional physical therapy and the alternative therapy employed at Revita are referred to as conservative therapy. In general, Wilson says, conservative therapy is attempted to alleviate pain before lumbar surgery is considered.
Revita uses specialized equipment made by Pneumex, based in Sandpoint, that combines traction, vibration, and what's called unweighting, or minimizing the pull of gravity, to treat problems.
While the study focuses on back pain, Revita also treats patients with problems with shoulders, neck, and spine.
Founded in January 2010 by Paul Brown and Steve Neff, the rehabilitative-therapy practice performs about 250 treatments a month outside of the study, Neff says. Some of those patients have had surgery and still experience pain, though most of them are undergoing therapy in hopes of avoiding surgery, he says.
In addition to Brown and Neff, Revita has five employees, including a chiropractor and a physical therapist.
Brown says Revita currently has an exclusive licensing agreement with Pneumex to operate its equipment and its rehabilitation protocol in Washington state and Kootenai County. The company hopes to open as many as 100 additional clinics in the future, Brown says.
Wilson has operated Michael Wilson Consulting since October of 2009, when he retired from his post as chief executive and president of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital, both of Spokane.
Wilson says the health care consulting business primarily has involved working with physicians and physician groups, representing them in contract and acquisition negotiations with hospitals and other health care groups.
Shortly after retiring, Wilson says, he was introduced to the owners of Pneumex and became an adviser to the company. He recommended last year that the company participate in a clinical trial.
"Pneumex spoke with me about how to take the clinical protocol and equipment and enter the marketplace," Wilson says. "There's only one legitimate way to do so. You have to go through the rigors of a clinical trial."
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