Being associated with the development of a new medical procedure is one thing - it's quite another to have that procedure named after you. Kenneth Reed, MD, pioneer behind the Reed Procedure, knows a little something about it.
Being associated with the development of a new medical procedure is one thing — it’s quite another to have that procedure named after you. Kenneth Reed, MD, knows a little something about that. He’s the founder of Dallas-based Reed Migraine Center and the pioneer behind the Reed Procedure, a drug-free, minimally invasive neurostimulation procedure for patients suffering from chronic head pain.
“[The Reed Procedure] has been very well received,” says Reed of the procedure that is an offshoot of a technique called spinal cord stimulation. “We’ve been able to give patients their lives back to the point where they haven’t had a headache in months. That’s a very rewarding feeling.”
Borrowing on success
When Reed moved his traditional pain practice to Dallas in 1998 pain management was still in its infancy. One of the treatments Reed offered was a technique called spinal cord stimulation for people with chronic neck and back pain.
“If nothing else works, we can implant a nerve stimulator next to the patient’s spinal cord,” he explains. “It looks very similar to a pacemaker except it’s under the skin and it paces the spinal cord. The patient feels a tingling over the area, and then it eases the pain.”
One patient, however, experienced severe pain in the back of their head; a special type of pain Reed calls occipital neuralgia. “The patient was devastated, almost to the point of being suicidal,” recalls Reed, who came to the realization that the same approach to treating neck and back pain might work for severe head pain. It worked.
“One of the best things about this type of treatment is that there’s a way to test it before we actually do one of these implants,” Reed says. “Through a tiny needle we can implant a tester trial stimulator that will stay in for about five days, and the patient can determine if it works. No treatment works on everybody, but the important thing is there’s a simple way to test and know for certain that it’s going to work.”
Six years ago Reed further developed the procedure so that it could be applied not just to headaches in the back of a patient’s head, but also the more common severe migraine headaches.
“We found that worked even better,” Reed says.
A paper based on the Reed Procedure was published in 2009 in the Journal of the International Headache Society, and received the award for best original research submission of the year. Reed was asked to speak at the society’s international congress and was well received.
“Since then I’ve implanted the device in several hundred patients, and made it the sole focus of our practice,” Reed says.
Word of the procedure and interest in it spread and led to the development of the Reed Migraine Centers. Reed teamed with some of the top specialists in the field of interventional pain management to interview and to select some of the best pain specialists, he then brought them to Dallas to train with him on the procedure.
“These are some of the top names in our field, and they’re specially trained in doing this procedure,” Reed says. “It’s a very exciting time, a very rewarding time, and the patients are doing extremely well. And now the Reed Centers has become this network of specialists trained in our procedure, and we work very closely with them.”
The breakthrough procedure to control migraines has been so successful that the Reed Center recently launched a multi-city seminar tour called “Get Your Life Back: The Reed Procedure.” The seminars are free and last approximately 90 minutes.
“This is how we take the message to our patients,” Reed explains. “We try to plan a seminar a month. It’s informational, where we go over the procedure from A to Z: the pros and cons, and who’s a candidate for it.”
Reed also makes certain to have a current patient who has received the implant at the seminar.
“When I finish talking, I let the patient handle questions,” he says. “It’s one thing for a doctor to talk about a procedure he developed, but it’s another to see a patient and hear their story.”
Reed says that, like anything else, getting the Reed Procedure to this level of success has been a process. But he traces that success back to one key element: “It all centered on determining that this thing has a chance of working, and owing it to the ease of doing a test.”
Despite having his feet firmly planted on the ground as a pain intervention specialist, Reed can often be found with his head in the clouds — figuratively speaking, of course. The doctor is a licensed pilot who has flown and trained on a wide variety of aircrafts, most notably the L-39 Albatross — a two-seater jet that was flown by the Czech Republic.
He has even traveled to Madagascar and Mauritius to meet with government officials and medical specialists regarding improving medical care in these areas.
“I got my pilot’s license when I was 18,” Reed recalls. “If I’d had better eyesight, I probably would have joined the military as a pilot. But I’ve always had an interest in military planes.”
Fifteen years ago he acquired a T-34 — a single-engine prop plane that is used by the U.S. as an Air Force and Navy trainer — and nine years ago he acquired the L-39 Albatross, which he has since sold.
“When I became proficient with certain military maneuvers like flying in formation, a group of us would go to air shows in the area and perform different maneuvers,” Reed says. “But due to the cost of fuel, which is about $1,000 an hour, it became prohibitive, and around five years ago I sold [the L-39].”
One day, however, Reed hopes he can re-acquire the plane. He says his passion for flying is the same today as it was when he first obtained his license.
“Flying is a great way to relieve stress,” he says. “It’s kind of like doing ballet in the sky.”