Spinal Cord Stimulator therapy is an increasingly popular procedure that we offer for the treatment of chronic back pain, chronic pain in the neck and radiculopathy into the arms and legs. This innovative treatment works by changing pain signals that travel up through the spinal cord to the brain. Placed near the spinal cord in the epidural space, the spinal cord stimulator device delivers low-level electrical impulses to the spinal cord or to specific nerves that interfere with the perception of pain, especially chronic nerve pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) uses groundbreaking technology that works by implanting a small device in the body either surgically or through the skin. The device is used to deliver an electrical current into the epidural space near the source of chronic pain impulses. In other words, it masks pain by blocking pain signals before they reach the brain. Most patients describe the stimulation as feeling like a “pleasant tingling” or “gentle massage” which over-rides their pain signals; with new devices, in some cases, the patient will not feel anything. The patient is first given a local anesthetic and minimal sedation; the doctor then places the trial SCS leads through a needle in the back into the epidural space. The thin lead is then taped to the patient’s back and connected to a stimulating device, which is like a battery. The trial stimulator is typically worn for three to five days. If the trial successfully relieves the patient’s pain, they can undergo a permanent SCS if desired. The trial leads will be removed and we will then move forward with getting the SCS implant scheduled. The implanted device produces a low voltage current which blocks the brain’s ability to sense the previously perceived pain. The patient can turn the stimulator off and on, as well as adjust the intensity of the stimulator as necessary to provide optimal pain relief in different positions. As with all therapies, the amount of pain relief will vary from person to person.
Risks and Complications
As expected with any minor surgical procedure, there is always a chance of side effects. Although the risks are low with this procedure, it is important to know that there are risks. For example, it is important to keep the incision dry and clean after surgery so an infection does not occur during the healing process. If you notice any drainage or redness at the incision site, you may have developed an infection and should be seen by your doctor. We will bring you back into the office within a week after the implant for a wound check.
Examples of other rare side effects include bleeding, scar tissue deposition, electrode failure, inadequate pain surface area coverage and nerve problems. This is rare but can happen. Spinal cord stimulation is not for everyone; check with your physician to see if the procedure is right for you.
We will take excellent care of you here at Cincinnati Pain Physicians and it is our pleasure to treat you. Please DO NOT hesitate to call the office with any questions or concerns regarding your procedure appointment.