What is Spinal Cord
It is a therapy that uses
electrical impulses to block pain from being perceived in the brain.
Instead of pain, the patient feels a more pleasant tingling
Who is a good
candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
Doctors will generally
consider the following:
treatments have been tried and failed.
Treatment is most
effective when pain is in one or both arms or legs, or for low
back pain that persists after surgery.
Further surgery is
not likely to help.
The patient has no
untreated drug addictions.
The patient has had a
The patient does not
have a pacemaker or other contraindications.
The patient has had a
successful SCS trial.
The patient is
willing to play an active role in establishing and maintaining
increased quality of life.
After you and your
physician discuss the SCS and determine that you would like to
proceed, a trial will be arranged to learn if it will be effective
in treating your pain. The trial involves a surgical procedure to
implant a temporary stimulator to determine if the area of your pain
will be covered by stimulation. The trial may last a minimum or 24
hours or as long as several weeks. You will want to be certain that
you have satisfactory pain control and that you are comfortable with
the sensations of stimulation. If the trial is successful, the
permanent stimulator implantation will be scheduled.
The procedure will take
place in a sterile environment or in the operating room. You will be
given a local anesthetic so that you can be awake during the
procedure (with minimal discomfort) in order to give feedback to the
physician regarding effective lead placement.
After the local
anesthetic has time to numb the area where the lead will be placed,
the lead is inserted near your spinal cord through a needle or
through an incision. Once the lead is in place, your physician will
activate the system. You will help the physician determine how well
the stimulation pattern covers your pain pattern. You will also get
a sense of how stimulation feels to help determine if it is right
Risks of Surgery
Any time surgery is
performed there are possible complications. These include:
Spinal Fluid Leakage
Risks specific to the
spinal cord stimulator are:
No stimulation or
Stimulation in the
Loss of pain
relieving effect, with a return of your usual pain.
The lead could move.
There could be a poor
Do not eat or drink for 8
hours before the surgery. Specific instructions will be given by the
person who schedules the procedure.
As with any surgery, you
will have some discomfort at the incision sites, and there will be
some swelling which usually lasts for several days. There will be
some discomfort over the area where the receiver is implanted. This
is normal. Your doctor may prescribe an analgesic until this
implantation, you should avoid lifting, bending, stretching, and
twisting. Light exercise, such as walking is important to build
strength and to help relieve pain.
Long Term Care
Leads can remain
permanently in place. However, if you engage in extreme bending,
stretching, twisting, or strenuous activity such as jumping
exercises and diving, etc., the leads may move or become damaged and
require surgical repositioning or removal. Moving or lifting heavy
objects can move or break the leads. Sometimes leads will move as a
result of normal bending, stretching, or twisting, or due to your
unique physical structure. Check with your doctor before performing
any strenuous activity.
to Keep in Mind:
Do not drive a motor
vehicle or heavy equipment while using the stimulator. You may use
it if you are a passenger.
The stimulator will set
off metal detectors (such as at airports). You will want to be sure
you have your SCS identification card in order to pass through.
Department store theft
detectors may cause an increase or decrease in stimulation as you
pass through. This is temporary and will not harm you or the
stimulator, however, you may wish to turn the stimulator off before
Anything with magnets can
affect your stimulator, in addition to theft detectors and metal
detectors, be mindful of large stereo speakers with magnets, high
voltage power lines, electric arc welding equipment, electric
sub-stations and power generators. Magnets can turn an internally
powered generator (IPG) on or off. You will want to avoid MRIs as
they can damage the stimulator.
equipment will not harm or interfere with the stimulator. This
includes cellular or portable phones, microwaves, computers, TVs,
appliances, electric blankets, and heating pads.
The stimulator control
magnet may cause damage to certain items or erase information on
items with magnetic strips (bank or credit cards), Magnetic media
(video cassette tapes, computer diskettes, cassette tapes), home
electronic items (computer, VCR, television, camera). The magnet
will stop watches and clocks, so you will want to store the magnet
at least two inches away.
Life of batteries depends
upon stimulation settings and usage. External batteries last
anywhere from several hours to several days. When the battery of an
implanted pulse generator is depleted, you may need surgery to
replace the IPG.
Report to your doctor's
nurse changes in stimulation patterns, increase in pain, or
unexplained increased / decreased stimulation.
Will I be pain free?
There will be residual
discomfort. Most patients report that 50%- 70% decrease in pain. The
goal is to lower the level of pain and make it more manageable.
How will a spinal cord
stimulator help me?
Depending upon your
work, you should be able to resume work at home or job that does
not require strenuous physical activity.
You can resume sexual
You can travel,
keeping in mind that sitting for long periods of time is best
You will be able to
participate in recreational activities such as walking, fishing,
You will feel more in
control of your attitude, and should notice a positive effect