Offering Hope for the Hopeless
Most people wouldn’t want to be considered a last resort, but Tod Aust isn’t like most people – on many levels. He is, at once, intense while mild-mannered; passionate while compassionate; and on elite ground intellectually while grounded and connected with his patients. It is his mission to relieve suffering by combining an industry-leading utilization and understanding of medical technology with persistence and the art of listening. Dr. Tod Aust is, among other things, an interventional pain management physician with a passion for what others describe as hopeless causes. “Because I can take more time with patients than is the norm in many volume-based practices, I’m referred complex injury cases, long-term chronic pain cases with overlapping issues, and cases that have repeatedly eluded effective treatment – the worst of the worst.”
Aust explains his practice motto ‘Pain Relief without Pain Pills’ saying, “It’s of utmost importance to educate patients that pills aren’t the answer. Opioids can’t heal an injury or cure arthritis, and any initial relief is often short-lived when their tolerance builds up. To get buy-in for pill-free treatment, I have to listen and ensure them that this is a long-term partnership where if they won’t quit, I won’t quit. The physical exam and patient interaction are key – not just looking at an MRI.” Aust says difficult pain is often ‘multifactorial.’ “Difficult cases often involve several pathologic processes causing overlapping pain in one area. This is challenging because treatment of one problem does not relieve the pain from the others, so the pain remains if only one source of overlapping pain is treated. A plan must be made for each problem, and the patient must understand the processes causing overlapping pain. By partnering with patients in their care rather than dictating treatment based on imaging alone, 95% of our patients achieve improvement.”
Creating an Extraordinary Life
Prompted by his practice manager and wife, Tina Aust, Tod tells the story of the beautiful artwork that is the 12-foot cypress conference table over which we meet. “This table was made by a cancer survivor we helped in a particularly advanced case. His face, head and neck were damaged by radiation causing unimaginable pain and the inability to work as a master carpenter for years.” Dr. Aust continues, “It is a testament to the pain-relieving power of an intrathecal pump that we were able to get him off pain pills and out of pain. Being able to return to his craft was more than he hoped for. We were his first customer, and this was his first big project after his extended illness. It is a symbol of the beauty that is often hidden from the world by untreated pain.” Along with the gratitude of his patients, Aust is rewarded with the respect of his educators, peers and industry leaders, and is fueled by impressive abilities. Despite previously running a successful tech company in Los Angeles, his attention was turned to medicine due to Tina’s afflictions with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis that often left her bedridden. “My dad listened to motivational speakers like Zig Ziglar and Tony Robbins whenever we were in the car when I was a kid,” says the multi-faceted physician. “I hated it, but it sunk in that you don’t have to settle for a preconceived lot in life. You can think outside the box, take control of your future, contribute to society and create an extraordinary life for your family.”
Making a Meaningful Difference
Tod pursued many interests in California, but nothing fulfilled his need to make a meaningful difference in life. “Tina was going to be the doctor. We took classes together, and I found that biology and anatomy came naturally to me. I was fascinated with solving the puzzles of the human body, but we could only afford for one of us to attend medical school and decided it would be me. From there I dedicated myself to finding relief for her pain and others like her.” Dr. Aust completed medical school and a residency in anesthesiology at UCLA where he was named resident of the year. He was asked to remain there to complete the coveted fellowship in Pain Medicine where he was mentored by world-renowned pain specialists. But after his studies, a different calling led him to Louisiana. While attending a wedding in New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina, Tod and Tina both felt a connection to the resiliency and warmth of the people they met here. “We felt no sense of community in Los Angeles and had never been anywhere that felt so welcoming – especially after such tragedy.” By 2015, Aust was practicing medicine on the Northshore and the couple was home.
Combining Talent with Passion
Once again combining talent with passion, Aust was recognized by top innovators in his field. “I found myself across this table from the CEO of a leading pump manufacturer discussing my fantastic success with their product.” An intrathecal pain pump is used to deliver small quantities of medication, such as morphine, directly to the spinal fluid. When delivered in small doses, the side effects often experienced with larger oral doses of the same medications can be minimized. Extreme and refractory pain often requires a pump, so it was especially validating to be offered funding for research involving pain from interstitial cystitis. IC causes pelvic and bladder pain, urinary and sexual issues, and more. IC affects up to 12 percent of women and is refractory to treatment in many cases. By taking the time to listen and customize their pump therapy, I have had amazing results with some of the most difficult of these cases.”
Aust says he and Tina are thrilled with their decision to build a life and meaningful practice here. “We’re proud of our dedicated team and the compassion they extend to patients who are desperate for relief, and we are honored to contribute to research making real advancements in the field. Tina’s collaboration is priceless to me. She is my equal in every way, and I know I couldn’t do this life-changing work helping people find hope without her at my side.”
Dr. Aust Interventional Pain is located at 740 Gause Boulevard in Slidell. For more information, contact 985-377-1884 or visit austpain.com. *Details regarding the cancer survivor and the hand-made cypress conference table are used with permission of the patient.