Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a very effective therapy for controlling pain related to nerve damage. If you suffer from failed low back syndrome, complex regional pain syndromes, peripheral neuropathy, or any similar painful disorders that stem from nerve damage, a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant can reduce or eliminate your pain.
In this procedure, your Charleston back doctor places stimulating electrodes next to your spinal cord. These electrodes are attached to a pacemaker-like device that can be implanted under your skin. The implanted device sends out small bursts of electrical impulses to your spinal cord, which substitute a pleasant sensation for the pain you previously experienced.
Before the procedure, however, an external stimulator trial must be performed to determine if the technique will work for you. Your trial can be done in the offices at the Southeastern Spine Institute.
SCS is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to relieve chronic pain in your back, arms and legs. SCS candidates include people who suffer from neuropathic pain and those for whom conservative treatments have failed. The procedure is detailed below. Talk to your physician about the risks that apply to you.
1. Testing a Trial Device
SCS works on a specific part of your spine. As shown in illustration 1, your back doctor must place the insulated wire leads.
First, he anesthetizes the injection site on your back. Then, using a fluoroscope, he inserts one or more temporary leads through a cannula or very thin needle to the appropriate position in the epidural space, which is the space surrounding your spinal cord. Since you’ll be conscious during this procedure, you’ll be able to help your doctor determine the correct position of the leads.
With the leads in place, the doctor connects them to an external trial stimulator, shown in illustration 2. You will use this stimulator for about one week to determine if SCS will help decrease your pain. At the end of the trial period, all leads are removed. If you and your doctor determine that the amount of pain relief is acceptable, you may plan to have a permanent system implanted.
2. Placing the Permanent Leads
The permanent SCS system is implanted while you are under sedation or general anesthesia. First, your back surgeon inserts one or more permanent leads through an epidural needle or small incision into the predetermined location in your epidural space. See illustration 3.
3. Implanting the Battery
Next, the doctor creates a small incision through which he positions the implantable pulse generator (IPG) battery. Most often, the IPG battery is implanted just beneath your skin in your buttocks or abdomen, as shown in illustration 4. The doctor then connects the lead to the IPG battery.
4. Setting & Adjusting the Pulses
The implant’s electrical pulses are programmed with an external control unit (see illustration 5). You can use the external control unit to turn the system on or off, adjust the stimulation power level and switch between different programs.
5. Recovering from the Procedure
After surgery, you may experience mild discomfort and swelling at the incision sites for several days. The pain reduction through SCS should be immediate, just as it was in the trial period.