A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a surgically implanted device that transmits small amounts of electrical current to targeted spinal cord nerves. The therapy using a stimulator is called spinal cord stimulation (SCS) or neurostimulation.
What conditions are treated using spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is an innovative treatment that addresses a few of the most difficult pain problems and conditions. This treatment is generally considered only after the patient fails on other therapies. SCS is most often used to treat?
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
Post-laminectomy syndrome (failed back surgery syndrome)
How does spinal cord stimulator treatment work?
If you suffer from chronic pain, the Maryland pain management specialist will first attempt to help you using conventional measures. These methods include medications, physical therapy, and injections. If the pain persists, the doctor may suggest SCS.
Neuropathic pain occurs when there is trauma or injury to the peripheral nervous system or central nervous system. This causes stabbing, sharp, and intense burning pain. In addition, the painful area is hypersensitive, hurting from simple light touch or brushing against the skin. SCS provides pain relief by emitting electrical current that interferes with pain signal transmission, substituting it for a more pleasant sensation.
How do I prepare for the procedure?
Before the procedure, the doctor will review the risks and benefits of SCS and ask you to sign a consent form. You should hold any medicines that thin the blood for 5-7 days, avoid alcohol, and stop smoking. In addition, the doctor will assess you for fitness, using preliminary tests and physical examination measures.
What is a spinal cord stimulator trial?
Before permanently implanting the device, the Annapolis pain management doctor will suggest a trial period. This involves partial implantation. The soft, thin wires and electrical leads are placed in the epidural space, along the spinal cord. These wires then connect to a portable generator, worn outside the body. The stimulation trial is done for 5-10 days, to give the patient time to see if it works.
How is the final implant performed?
If the SCS trial is successful, you and the doctor will make the decision to have surgery for permanent SCS placement. The procedure will be done under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. A small incision is made on the lower abdomen or buttock. The small device is placed on top of muscle but below the fatty tissue. The wires run from the unit to the spinal cord, connecting to the previously placed leads. After the unit is placed, the incision is closed using sutures.
What can I expect after the SCS surgery?
After the procedure, a nurse monitors you for around 45-60 minutes as you awake from sedation. The incision sites will be sore, but this only last a few days. You will be given discharge instructions. It is important that you keep the incisions clean and dry, and you cannot participate in rigorous activities for a few weeks.
What are the expected results?
Spinal cord stimulation is an effective way to treat chronic back pain, as well as neuropathic pain. Clinical studies show that this procedure has a 90% success rate, offering up to 70% pain reduction for most patients. In a recent study, 50 patients with FBSS were treated with SCS. Of these, 90% reported pain relief at the 2-year follow up, with most reporting greater than 50% pain reduction.