Spinal cord stimulation

Definition

Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment for pain that uses a mild electric current to block nerve impulses in the spine.

Description

A trial electrode will be put in first to see if it helps your pain.

If the treatment greatly reduces your pain, you will be offered a permanent generator. The generator will be implanted a few weeks later.

The generator runs on batteries. Some batteries are rechargeable. Others last 2 to 5 years. You will need another surgery to replace the battery.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Your doctor may recommend this procedure if you have:

SCS is used after you have tried other treatments such as medicines and exercise and they have not worked.

Risks

Risks of this surgery include any of the following:

The SCS device may interfere with other devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. After the SCS is implanted, you may not be able to get an MRI anymore. Discuss this with your health care provider.

Before the Procedure

Tell the provider who will be doing the procedure what medicines you are taking. These include medicines and supplements you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the surgery:

On the day of the surgery:

After the Procedure

After the permanent generator is placed, the surgical cut will be closed and covered with a dressing. You will be taken to the recovery room to wake up from the anesthesia.

Most people can go home the same day, but your surgeon may want you to stay overnight in the hospital. You will be taught how to care for your surgical site.

You should avoid heavy lifting, bending, and twisting while you are healing. Light exercise such as walking can be helpful during recovery.

Outlook (Prognosis)

After the procedure you may have less back pain and will not need to take as much pain medicines. But, the treatment does not cure back pain or treat the source of the pain.


Review Date: 4/9/2018
Reviewed By: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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