FAQ’s on Spinal Cord Stimulator Implants in Las Vegas

A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) implant is a surgically implanted device that blocks pain signal transmission. The device is placed in the abdomen, and wires connect from the device to electrodes placed near the spinal cord.

What is spinal cord stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation is useful for the treatment of chronic pain and severe neuropathic (nerve-related) pain. Nerve pain occurs following nerve injury or trauma, or when a disease affects the nervous system or spinal cord. Neuropathic pain includes burning, stabbing, and sharp pain of the affected extremities.

What painful conditions respond to the spinal cord stimulator?

Most neuropathic pain causes an increased response to mild touch, which is known as hypersensitivity. SCS is used to treat anything that causes nerve pain. Two conditions treated with SCS include:

  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Failed back surgery syndrome (FBBS)

What is involved in the spinal cord stimulator trial?

The pain management specialist will recommend a spinal cord stimulator trial before permanently implanting the actual device. The trial involves the insertion of small leads near the spinal cord using needles. The device remains external (outside the body). If the patient has pain relief with the spinal cord stimulation trial, he or she can be scheduled for the actual procedure.

What should I expect before the spinal cord stimulator procedure?

To prepare for the spinal cord stimulator procedure, you should first inform the doctor of all medications you are taking. Blood-thinning agents must be held for a few days beforehand. Bring someone with you to drive you home, as driving is not permitted for 24 hours afterwards. You cannot eat or drink after midnight, but are allowed small sips of water with your routine medications. When you arrive at the medical center, a nurse will discuss the benefits and risks of SCS, and ask you to sign a consent form. Once you change into a gown, the nurse places an IV catheter in your arm to administer fluids and other medications.

What happens during the actual procedure?

The abdomen is cleaned with an antiseptic solution, and the skin will be anesthetized using a numbing agent. The doctor makes a small incision on the abdomen and positions the tiny devices. Wires are threaded from the device to the spinal cord. A small incision is made on the back so tiny leads can be placed near the spinal cord. Once the device is positioned, the incisions are closed, and a dry bandage is placed over them.

What should I expect following the SCS procedure?

Right after the procedure, a nurse monitors you for around 30-45 minutes. Expect some soreness at the incision sites as the anesthetic wears off. Bending, lifting, and heavy activity is not allowed for 2-3 weeks while incisions heal. We recommend that you rest for a couple days and use ice packs to alleviate pain.

Is the spinal cord stimulator effective for pain relief?

According to many clinical studies, the spinal cord stimulation has a 70-90% efficacy rate. A recent research study found that many patients enjoy pain relief for up to two years following the SCS procedure.

What are the risks and side effects of the SCS procedure?

Side effects to the medications used during the procedure could occur. These include rash, itching, dizziness, nausea, and drowsiness. Soreness at the incision site is common, but this gradually improves. While risks are rare, they do occur, including bruising, infection, clumsiness, weakness, nerve injury, and numbness of the extremities. Complications include breakage of an electrode, scar tissue buildup around an electrode, bladder problems, spinal fluid leaking, and hardware failure.

Resources

Kumar K, Hunter G, & Demeria D (2006). Spinal cord stimulation in treatment of chronic benign pain: challenges in treatment planning and present status, a 22-year experience. Neurosurgery, 58(3):481-496.

Liliang PC, Lu K, Weng, HC, et al. (2009). The therapeutic efficacy of sacroiliac joint blocks with triamcinolone acetonide in the treatment of sacroiliac joint dysfunction without spondyloarthropathy. Spine, 34(9), 896-900.