Spinal Cord Stimulation and Implantation

What is spinal cord stimulation and when is it helpful?
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy uses electrical impulses to block pain from being perceived in the brain. SCS therapy works by delivering electrical stimulation directly to pain-transmitting nerves in the spinal cord, blocking the pain message that would otherwise travel to the brain. A simple outpatient surgical procedure is needed to implant the nerve stimulator and impulse generator into the body. Only 2-3 small incisions are required.

SCS therapy is always preceded by an SCS trial, which is a surgical procedure during which we implant a temporary stimulator to confirm that we have correctly identified the source of your pain and that nerve stimulation will reduce or pain and improve function. The temporary trial lasts 5-7 days and does not require a surgical incision.

Patients will be considered for this treatment who meet the following criteria:

  • Suffer from an element of nerve damage pain.
  • We have tried all conservative procedures.
  • Additional surgery is unlikely to reduce the pain.
  • The patient is willing to play an active role in establishing and maintaining improved quality of life.

What happens during the procedure?
An IV will be started to provide antibiotics and relaxation medication. Next, we will inject a local anesthetic and insert the leads into the epidural space of the spine. Sometimes you will remain awake during a small portion of the procedure when we test the location of the leads/electrodes so that you can describe what you feel. This will not be painful. If this is an implant, a small rechargeable battery will also be placed under the skin to power the device long-term. The system is totally under patient control via a hand-held transmitter.

What will happen after a spinal cord stimulation procedure? 
The trial and implantation procedures are both outpatient procedures that require little post-operative pain control. While you recover from the procedure, we will schedule a follow-up appointment and explain any limitations on your physical activity. Activity may be limited for a period of time after the procedure. For your own safety, you cannot drive the day of the procedure, so someone must drive you home. You should start feeling some relief in about 24-72 hours.