Spinal Cord Stimulation Implants
Spinal cord stimulation is recommended when all conservative measures to alleviate pain have been tried and proven ineffective. This is the standard treatment for chronic back pain which cannot be cured by other treatment methods. It is even effective in treating chronic pains of the legs and arms, that have not found relief through traditional methods. SCS aims to manage pain and also control pain medication. Spinal cord stimulation uses low voltage stimulation of the spinal nerves to block the sensation of pain, helping to better manage your pain and decrease use of pain medication.
Doctors recommend it to patients who continue to suffer from backache even after surgery. Patients who undergo SCS get relief from pain as the electric currents block the brain from registering the pain sensation from the affected area. Thus by interfering with the signals to the brain, it provides considerable relief.
Spinal Cord Stimulation Procedure
Spinal Cord Stimulation is the most popular method today to provide relief from persistent pain. It is usually administered with the help of an internal pulse generator that comes with a battery. The system consists of the following items:
A pulse generator that creates the electronic pulses. It is implantable.
A lead with multiple electrodes that delivers the electronic pulses to the spinal cord. The number of electrodes is between 4 and 16.
An extension wire connects the lead to the pulse generator.
A hand-held remote control that is used to switch on the pulse generator and also adjust the pulses.
The pulse generator is placed below the skin of the back, near the spinal column through a small incision. No major surgery is required but local anesthesia is given. The electrodes lead to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. The stimulator is also placed below the skin, usually in the upper buttock or the abdomen. Through the remote control, the stimulator is activated, which sends mild electric currents to the electrodes that connect to the nerve fibers creating a tingling sensation in the affected area. The patient experiences reduction in pain when the stimulator is switched on as the electric signals interrupts the pain signals and don’t allow them to reach the brain. This procedure has been proven effective, allowing people with pain to lead a more active lifestyle.
Right Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation
Doctors generally recommend thorough checkup to determine whether a patient should undergo Spinal Cord Stimulation. The pain history is also evaluated to decide if the goals of pain management comply with the treatment. Those people who have undergone surgery but did not get relief from back pain are usually recommended to undergo SCS.
Spinal cord stimulator is recommended for pain patients when:
Conservative therapies have been tried and proven ineffective
Your source of pain has been diagnosed and confirmed
Surgery is not going to be beneficial
You are not dependent on pain medicines
You have no medical condition that would prevent you from having an implant
Your trial stimulation has been successful
Spinal cord stimulator treats chronic pain from:
Painful inflammation and scarring of the protective layers of the spinal nerves (arachnoiditis)
Spinal cord injury
Peripheral vascular disease
Most patients who are considered candidates for SCS are made to undergo a trial procedure to determine to what degree the procedure can control pain. This is done by placing the SCS leads into the epidural space without any surgical incisions, using an external generator for the trial period, usually seven days. When a patient achieves the desired level of pain control, he is suggested to go for permanent implantation.
Spinal Cord Stimulation is minimally invasive, cost effective and long term treatment procedure that brings respite from chronic back pain. It is one of the most widely adopted procedures to achieve goals of pain management.