Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) works by blocking pain signals in the spine before they reach the brain. The spinal cord stimulator system includes a generator (similar to a pacemaker), which is initially kept outside of the body during a trial period. It can be permanently implanted into the body if the patient gets relief during the trial period. The generator is connected to leads, thin wires that are placed in the outer layer of the spinal cord and deliver pulses from the generator. An external devise, the controller, allows the patient to regulate how the stimulation feels.
Spinal Cord Stimulation can be recommended for patients who have:
- Experienced at least six months of chronic pain in the back, neck, arms, or legs
- Neuropathic pain (pain marked by burning, tingling, or numbness)
- Not received sufficient relief from surgery or other treatment options.
When you come in for the procedure, you will have the opportunity to speak with a clinical staff member in order to have any questions answered, and you will sign a consent form. In the procedure room, you will lie on the treatment table, and the area on your body where the leads will be inserted will be sterilized. You may be given a local anesthetic to decrease the pain of the procedure, or you may be sedated. A radiology tech will be present to guide the fluoroscope (x-ray machine) that your doctor will be using to visualize the leads as they are inserted.
The leads will be inserted into your back with a needle. After the leads are positioned in the best place for your pain relief, they are connected to the generator, which is worn externally during the trial period.
Some patients may find this procedure to be painful. If you do feel pain, you should tell your doctor, as he may be able to make adjustments to reduce your discomfort. The entire procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to an hour. Following the procedure, you will be able to rest in a recovery area. You will be provided with discharge instructions. You will need to have a responsible adult with you to drive you home.
Recovery and Benefits
Recovery after the procedure
You may call Louisiana Pain Specialists if you have any concerns during your recovery from the procedure. You should be able to return to your normal activities after a day of rest. Within the first 24 hours, you may have some discomfort at the procedure site. While it is healing, you must keep it clean and dry. If the site becomes red or inflamed, you should call to speak with a provider at Louisiana Pain Specialists, as you may have developed an infection.
The system replaces pain with a feeling of gentle massaging or, in some cases, simply the absence of pain. A number of studies have found that Spinal Cord Stimulators can provide a reduction in pain, allow for the reduced use of pain medication, improve function and mobility, and make it possible for some people who have left work due to the pain to return to work.
Many patients get pain relief as soon as they have the initial trial system placed. Sometimes, leads must be adjusted for optimum pain relief and coverage of the painful area. Studies have shown that a large number of patients still have at least a 50 percent reduction in their pain several years after the original implant.