Dr. Ihab Louis is a popular man. Who wouldn't be popular if they could free people from suffering with chronic pain?
Take Nancy Deenen from Midland, Ontario who always led an active life until back surgery in 2014 left her in chronic pain. "Dr. Louis changed my life," says Deenen proudly. "Now I'm back to doing three-quarters of what I did before. I'm so grateful."
Dr. Louis is one of the only fellowship-certified pain specialists north of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), serving central and northern Ontario.
"There are so many people suffering from chronic pain with few services available here," says Dr. Louis, an anesthesiologist at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).
The pain clinic – which opened in 2010 as part of RVH's Surgical program receives hundreds of referrals each year with patients travelling from as far away as Thunder Bay.
"Pain can be debilitating and life-altering," says Dr. Louis. "My goal is to help patients regain their quality of life depending on their stage in life."
Open one and a half days a week, the clinic mostly treats chronic low back and neck pain. Through the clinic, Dr. Louis performs ultrasound and X-ray guided procedures, including radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which can provide relief for up to 12 months and can be repeated if pain returns. RVH is the only health centre north of the GTA providing this treatment.
One treatment not available through RVH's pain clinic is opioid therapy. Having worked with opioid treatment in the past, Dr. Louis is not convinced it's the answer.
"Evidence shows putting patients on opioids is not effective in the long term because it doesn't target the source of the pain and doesn't change their quality of life," says Dr. Louis. "I prefer to do diagnostic testing so we can figure out where the pain is coming from, then target it at the source."
Always one to put patients first, Dr. Louis is not satisfied until he finds a solution.
"What works for one person may not work for another," says Deenen, who has undergone RFA in the hopes of year-long relief. "Dr. Louis listens to his patients. He's the first doctor who never gave up on me."