A spinal cord stimulator is a small device that is surgically placed under the skin to control and interfere with the transmission of pain signals to the brain. With this therapy, a mild electrical current is sent to the spinal cord through a small wire. The device offers various settings that affect impulse strength.
This method of treatment has several advantages, including:
- Few or no side effects
- Good alternative to oral medication/refills
- Minimal invasiveness
- Reduction in opioid usage
How does spinal cord stimulation work?
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS)—also known as dorsal column stimulation—is performed in two stages: trial stimulation and permanent implantation.
Stage One: Trial Stimulation
This stage is performed to establish if SCS is effective. During the procedure, temporary wires are placed on the spinal cord itself and attached to a battery worn on a belt outside the body. During the trial period, patients will be asked to keep a log of all the stimulation settings used while participating in various activities, including how much pain is alleviated.
When the trial is over, patients will meet with their physician to discuss results and figure out if permanent implantation is a possible solution.
Stage Two: Permanent Implantation
Having the device permanently implanted is the next step if a patient has success with the trial. During the procedure, the wires are positioned in the appropriate areas, tested to confirm correct placement and then sutured into place. After that, the surgeon:
- Makes a pocket between the skin and muscle layers
- Inserts the stimulator
- Connects the wires to the device
- Closes the incision
Who is a potential candidate for spinal cord stimulation?
Patients interested in SCS live with chronic back pain and typically have exhausted all other methods of treatment. Conditions SCS can potentially treat include:
- Arachnoiditis: A burning inflammation of one of the protective coverings of the spinal meninges (nerves)
- Chronic pelvic pain (CPP)
- Complex regional pain syndrome (previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy): A nervous system disorder in which patients suffer from constant fiery pain, usually located in the hand or foot
- Degenerative disorders like arthritis, degenerative disc disease (DDD) or spinal stenosis
- Failed back surgery syndrome: An issue that occurs when prior surgery doesn’t control the pain it was designed to relieve (i.e., leg and back pain)
- Refractory angina, a condition that results in shortness of breath, fatigue and chest pain
- Spinal cord injuries
What should patients expect following the procedure?
Following the procedure, patients can expect to resume light activity after two to three weeks, with a complete recovery in six to eight weeks. Additionally, certain physical activities will be limited for two to three months after the procedure to ensure the leads don’t move.
As with any procedure, there will be some pain afterwards, but Dr. Harris Shaikh can create a personalized pain management and treatment plan tailored to an individual patient’s needs.
For more information about SCS or to schedule an appointment, contact Nova Spine & Pain Centers today.