Spinal cord stimulation uses an implanted device to deliver low-current electrical impulses to the nerves inside the spinal column, interfering with pain signaling between those nerves and the brain so symptoms of persistent or chronic pain are eliminated or significantly reduced. The spinal cord stimulator is made up of an electrical lead or wire that’s implanted near the spine and a pulse generator that’s implanted in the buttocks or belly area. The generator can be controlled to produce stimulation as needed to provide ongoing pain management.
The impulses are not painful; at most, they may cause a mild tingling sensation like a burst of very mild numbness near the site where the lead is implanted.
Spinal cord stimulators are used in patients with chronic, long-term pain in the back, legs or arms where other options like physical therapy have not resulted in improvement of symptoms. The spinal cord stimulator (SCS) device can be very effective in helping patients reduce or eliminate their reliance on pain medications to manage their symptoms.
The device is implanted under sedation so the patient can relax and “doze” during the procedure. X-rays will be taken to ensure the lead is placed accurately. Once the location of the lead has been determined, the incision sites on the back and belly or buttocks will be cleansed and a small incision will be made in the back so the lead can be inserted in the space near the spine (the epidural space). The lead is secured with tiny stitches. Before implanting the generator, the leads will be tested to ensure they’re properly located. Next, a very thin wire will be passed just below the skin surface to the location where the generator will be placed. A “pocket” will be made in the skin to contain the generator and the wire will be attached. Finally, the incisions will be closed and a dressing will be applied. Procedures take about three to four hours and usually are performed on an outpatient basis.