Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS)
The spine is the human body’s nerve superhighway. Over time, things like medical conditions, trauma, and natural processes can cause the spine to become misshapen, injured, or inflamed. As a result, the nerves in the spine may become agitated, causing pain. If this pain persists for more than three months, it becomes known as chronic pain and may require special treatment. One of the most modern and effective treatments for chronic pain is spinal cord stimulation (SCS).
What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is an advanced pain treatment that relieves pain by “stimulating” nerves in the spine. It is primarily prescribed for patients who have often tried conservative therapies and experienced no pain relief, would not benefit from additional surgery, or do not want to pursue surgery due to risks or long recovery.
The device that performs the stimulation therapy is called a spinal cord stimulator. A stimulator consists of two main parts, a battery and a pair of thin leads with electrodes on the tips. The leads are carefully and precisely placed along the spine, next to the specific nerves causing pain. The leads are then connected to the battery, which is implanted into a small pocket in your lower abdomen.
The battery emits mild electrical pulses, which travel along the leads to the nerves, “stimulating” them. Pain is reduced because the electrical pulses modify and mask pain signals before they reach your brain.
Spinal cord stimulation has proven to be a very effective treatment for relieving pain caused by failed back surgery, sciatica, spinal stenosis, epidural fibrosis, and painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN), to name just a few.
The spinal cord stimulation procedure is broken up into two parts, a trial period and the permanent implant.
A key benefit of spinal cord stimulation is that a trial can be performed first to determine if it’s right for you. During the trial, temporary leads are placed in your back. The battery pack is then worn externally like a belt.
During the trial period (which lasts 3-7 days) you may go about your daily routine, adjusting the stimulation to see what works for you. At the end of your trial period, you will return to the clinic where the leads will be removed, and you and your provider will discuss whether or not to move forward with the permanent implant.
If the trial is successful, you may decide to proceed with the permanent spinal cord stimulator implant. During the implant procedure, permanent leads are placed on the spine next to the nerves causing pain. The other ends of the leads are connected to the battery, which is implanted in the lower abdomen. The battery will then be turned on and programmed, at which time the actual spinal cord stimulation therapy begins. The settings may be adjusted as needed, and the procedure is reversible, meaning the stimulator may be removed if necessary.
What can I expect during the trial?
The SCS trial procedure is performed by a physician at an outpatient surgery center. After being admitted, you will receive sedation through an IV prior to the procedure. When you are brought into the procedure room, nurses will clean your skin at the injection sites and apply a local anesthetic to numb your skin. A physician will use a small needle to place two temporary leads for the spinal cord stimulator along the area of the spine that correlates with your pain. Once the leads are placed, they are connected to an external battery and covered by a large bandage.
You will go home and use the trial stimulator in your daily life for approximately one week. You will return to the clinic a few days after the temporary leads have been placed, at which time a nurse will examine the lead insertion site and a representative from the device manufacturer will fine tune your stimulation.
At the end of the trial period, you will return to the clinic to have the leads removed. At this time, you will discuss the amount of pain relief you experienced during the trial. If you decide to pursue an implanted spinal cord stimulator, we will work with your insurance company to get the implant approved.
What can I expect during the implant surgery?
Prior to the implant surgery you will need to obtain a preoperative history and physical evaluation from a primary care provider. You will also need to have an implant education appointment with your Twin Cities Pain Clinic provider.
The implant surgery is performed by a physician at an outpatient surgery center. After being admitted, you will receive sedation through an IV prior to the procedure. When you are brought into the procedure room, nurses will prep and clean your skin. A physician will make an incision in your back and use a small needle to place the permanent leads for the spinal cord stimulator along the area of the spine that correlates to your pain. Once the leads are placed, they will be connected to a battery which is then implanted in the lower abdomen. The incision will be stitched and bandaged, after which the procedure will be complete.
What can I expect after the surgery?
You will receive an antibiotic to prevent infection. You will then be brought to the patient recovery area and monitored by a nurse until your anesthesia wears off. For your safety, you will need a driver to take you home.
To prevent movement of the implanted leads, there are certain activities you should avoid for six to eight weeks after the surgery, including bending at the waist, twisting, reaching overhead, and lifting more than five pounds.
You will return to the clinic three to four days after the surgery, at which time a nurse will examine your incision site. You will also meet with a representative from the SCS device company who will turn on the device and program it.
After that, it’s time to start enjoying your life with less pain!
Spinal Cord Stimulation at Twin Cities Pain Clinic
Twin Cities Pain Clinic is one of the leading authorities of spinal cord stimulation therapy in the Midwest. Our highly skilled pain management physicians perform hundreds of spinal cord stimulator implant procedures each year and stay up to speed on the latest advancements in spinal cord stimulation technology.
Spinal cord stimulation could change your life! Schedule a consultation with Twin Cities Pain Clinic today.
RELIEVE YOUR PAIN, RENEW YOUR LIFE!