FAQ’s on Spinal Cord Stimulator
What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
For patients who are currently living with chronic pain in their spine, whether located in the lumbar region, cervical region, or in the limbs, a spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is potentially able to provide long-term relief. A SCS is an invasive treatment option designed for long-term use, and is typically one of the final treatment options patients have available to them in cases where other surgical methods have not been deemed viable options.
Stimulators function by changing the way pain signals are sent from the spine to the brain through the administration of electrical current. While a SCS cannot permanently remove symptomatic pains, it is able to lower the amount of pain perceived to much more manageable levels for patients.
What will a Spinal Cord Stimulator treat?
Patients who are able to receive a SCS implant have usually already exhausted many of the treatments available to them, and may have already had one or more spinal surgeries that were not able to provide relief. Stimulators can assist patients by allowing for better management of symptomatic pains to improve the daily quality of life. Chronic pains resulting diabetic or peripheral neuropathy can have the severity of their symptoms reduced through a SCS, with approximately 70% of patients able to receive benefit through a stimulator. Of these patients, approximately 85% are able to regain a degree of lose sensation in areas of neuropathic damage.
Stimulators are also an option in cases where patients have an extreme amount of scar tissue formation following a surgical procedure, such as in cases of laminectomy syndrome (decompression of a nerve root). While subsequent surgeries to remove the scar tissue can provide short-term benefit, they do not stop tissue formation. A SCS can help provide a constant means of symptomatic management.
How is the Spinal Cord Stimulator insertion procedure performed?
The SCS device has two components that must be implanted: a paddle device that is placed directly in contact with the spinal cord, and a battery pack serving to provide power to the device. There are a number of steps in the procedure patients must complete before receiving the implant on a permanent basis.
Patients will first receive a trial implant, which is an internal stimulator using external wiring. The trial implant is the same size of unit as the full implant, which helps to better prepare patients in becoming accustomed to the implant they will receive. The common length of the trial period before a full SCS implant is one week.
How well do Spinal Cord Stimulators work?
There are numerous benefits of a SCS, and the capabilities of pain relief options it can assist with are near unlimited. The device will function based on the unique requirements of the patient, and will be tailored to their individual symptomatic complications. Of patients receiving an implant, approximately 84% of patients undergo the procedure successfully. Over three-quarters of these patients are able to obtain symptomatic pain relief, with 80% of these patients able to lower their required opiate intake.
What are the risks of a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
As this is an invasive procedure, there are a number of risks faced by patients in the reception of a SCS. There are both procedural risks and risks with the implant themselves, but the risks are typically not harmful. The majority of risk occurs with the device itself, which can become dislodged after being inside the body. A shifting of the device will require a second surgery to correct its placement. Other risks include wound drainage, infection, and a potentially reduced device effect given enough time.