FAQ’s on Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant
What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant?
Patients who are currently living with chronic spinal pain, whether in the neck, lower back, or limbs, may be able to obtain long-term relief through the use of a spinal cord stimulator (SCS). An SCS implant is an invasive option designed for long-term relief, and in many cases is one of the last treatment options made available to patients after exhausting all other possible surgical methods. SCS implants can also be used in some cases where surgical correction was not a viable option for patients.
A spinal cord stimulator functions by altering the way the spine transfers pain signals to the brain with a careful application of electrical current. While a SCS is not designed and cannot permanently remove symptoms, it is typically able to provide a reduction in the levels of pain present to make them more manageable by other conservative methods.
What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant used to treat?
Patients who are eligible to receive an SCS will typically have gone through many of the other traditional treatments available to them, and may have already had one or more surgical corrections attempted that were not able to provide the desired amount of relief. Stimulators are able to assist patients by allowing for a higher level of symptomatic management with a goal of improving the patient’s daily quality of life. Patients with chronic pain due to peripheral or diabetic neuropathy can dramatically reduce their symptomatic severity with an SCS. (Effect and safety of spinal cord stimulation for treatment of chronic pain caused by diabetic neuropathy, 2009) Nearly 70% of our patients are able to receive a tangible benefit with the stimulator, with approximately 85% of these patients able to recover a portion of their lost sensation in areas with neuropathic damage.
A SCS can be used for patients with chronic pain due to CRPS type I, with 95% of the patients examined opting to repeat the procedure to maintain their relief (Effect of spinal cord stimulation for chronic complex regional pain syndrome Type I, 2008). Stimulators can be used in cases where patients have a chronic formation of scar tissue following surgery. While subsequent surgeries to remove this tissue may provide short-term relief, a stimulator can assist in providing a constant tool for symptomatic management.
How is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant inserted?
There are two components to be implanted during the SCS insertion: a paddle device placed in direct contact with the spinal cord, and a battery pack that provides power to this paddle. There are a number of procedural steps that must be completed before patients are able to receive the permanent implant. Patients will first experience a trial implant, which is a stimulator placed internally that has external wiring. The trial implant will often be the same size as the full implant to better prepare patients. Patients typically use a trial implant for one week prior to receiving their permanent stimulator.
How well does a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant work?
There are many benefits that can be provided to patients receiving a SCS, as it is able to treat nearly any chronic pain present. The exact functions of the device will be tailored to the unique needs of the individual patient, and is able to be changed to meet differing symptoms as needed.
Approximately 84% of patients receiving an implant have a successful trial period and implantation procedure, with three-quarters of these patients obtaining permanent symptomatic relief.
What are the risks of Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant?
There are a number of risks patients face with the reception of a SCS. There are both risks involving the device, and procedural risks with the implantation stages. In many cases, the risks are not actually harmful to the patient but may require subsequent surgeries to correct. Common risks include leakage and movement of the device, with smaller chances of infection, wound reduction, and a diminishing effect of the stimulator over time.