Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an advanced procedure that has evolved in clinical use since the late 1960’s. It involves the placement of programmable electrodes into the epidural space where they emit signals to the spinal cord to mask pain signals.
If your physician recommends spinal cord stimulation, you will first undergo a trial placement in an outpatient clinic setting. Electrodes will be placed with x-ray guidance and custom programmed to provide relief of your particular pain condition. Over the next 3-5 days you will be able to test the spinal cord stimulation system to see how much it relieves your pain and improves your function.
If the trial is successful, then you will be scheduled to undergo surgical implantation at an area hospital. The implantation is similar to that required for placement of a pace-maker and does not require an overnight stay in-hospital.
Published studies on spinal cord stimulation have shown that when used in properly selected patients it can offer the following benefits:
A spinal cord stimulation trial typically takes roughly 60 minutes total to include programming.
The spinal cord stimulator provides a signal to the spinal cord that competes with pain signals. In this way it blocks or masks the pain signals from being sent to your brain.
Spinal cord stimulator trials usually last between 3 to 5 days. At the end of your trial you will be seen in clinic and the stimulator wires will be easily removed in an exam room – removal takes no more than a minute or two.
Most patients describe a pleasant tingling in place of their usual pain. You may notice you require less pain medication or that you can walk further or sleep better.
If your trial was a success, your physician will begin the process of scheduling you for outpatient surgery to have a system implanted.
You are encouraged to continue taking your pain medications as prescribed.
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