Spinal cord stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a treatment that administers a mild electric current to block nerve impulses in the spine and treat pain.
Who is a Candidate For Spinal Cord Stimulation?
The procedure may benefit patients who have:
- Nerve pain or numbness in the arms or legs
- Long-term (chronic) back pain, with or without arm or leg pain
- Swelling (inflammation) of the lining of the brain and spinal cord
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Back pain that continues or worsens, even after surgery to address it
SCS is an option after other treatments, such as medicines and exercise, have failed to alleviate pain.
How to Prepare For The Procedure
Before surgery, patients will need to inform their physician of all medication they are taking, including over-the-counter medicines and supplements.
A few days before the surgery, patients will need to:
Stop smoking to ensure a healthy recovery after the procedure.
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Stop taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), to prevent problems with blood clotting.
Reduce alcohol intake.
Ask their provider which medicines they should continue taking.
On the day of the surgery, patients will need to:
Avoid eating or drinking before the procedure.
Take permissible medicines with a small sip of water.
Wear shoes with flat, non-skid soles.
What to Expect During The Procedure
During the first procedure, the physician will take the following steps to insert a trial electrode:
The physician will use a local anesthetic to numb the patient’s skin.
Next, the physician will place wires (leads) under the patient’s skin and into the space above the spinal cord.
The physician will connect these wires to a small current generator outside of the body.
The procedure will take about one hour and the patient will be able to go home once the procedure has been completed.
If the patient experiences significant pain relief, they will be offered a permanent generator. The generator will be implanted a few weeks later, using the following steps:
The patient will be placed under general anesthesia.
The physician will make a small surgical cut and insert the generator under the skin of the patient’s abdomen or buttocks.
The physician will then close the surgical cut and cover it with a dressing.
The entire procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
The generator runs on batteries that may be rechargeable or last two to five years. If the batteries are not rechargeable, the patient will need another surgery to replace the batteries.
After The Procedure
Once the procedure has been completed, the patient will be taken to the recovery room where they will wake up from the anesthesia.
To promote recovery, patients should avoid bending, heavy lifting, and twisting while the wound heals. Light exercise such as walking could support recovery.
Risks of Spinal Cord Stimulation
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage and spinal headaches
Movement of or damage to the generator or leads that requires more surgery
Infection of the battery or electrode site
Problems with the stimulator not working or working improperly
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