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Spinal Cord Stimulator

A Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) is an implantable neurostimulator device that consists of a tiny insulated wire called a lead, placed in the epidural space between the vertebrae and spinal cord, and a power source called a battery or receiver, placed under the skin near the buttocks or abdomen. When activated using an external remote, the device sends mild electric currents that block pain messages to the brain.

Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulator

In situations where severe pain has become chronic and cannot be treated at the root through minimally invasive spine surgery, a pain specialist may recommend SCS. Neurostimulation is based on a theory published in 1965 that nerves can transmit one of two sensations at a time: pain, or a sensation related to touch. For more than 40 years, neurostimulation has been used to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain – helping people who cannot otherwise get the pain relief they need.

An ideal candidate for SCS implant might be someone whose pain is marked by numbness, burning or tingling. This indicates that their pain is neuropathic. It has been found that failed back surgery syndrome, cervical and lumbar radiculitis, neuropathy, and complex regional pain syndrome all may be helped by this procedure. A type of “neuromodulation,” spinal cord stimulation has also succeeded in patients who are for some reason ineligible for other forms of spine surgery. An additional benefit of spinal cord stimulation is that patients are able to “test drive” a temporary version of it before committing to the permanent procedure.

To determine if you are a candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation, contact one of our Patient Care Managers at 877.474.2225. Our medical team will review a recent MRI or CT-scan at no cost to you.

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Details of the Spinal Cord Stimulator

Trial stimulation

To ensure the SCS will work for the patient, a trial must be performed before the permanent device is implanted. A hollow needle is inserted through the skin into the epidural space between the bony vertebra and the spinal cord using fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray). The lead is properly positioned and then attached to an external generator and power supply (worn on a belt). You will keep a written log of the stimulation settings during different activities and the level of pain relief. After 3-5 days, you will return to the doctor’s office to discuss permanently implanting the stimulator.

Permanent implantation

The trial is considered successful if you experienced greater than 50% improvement in pain. The permanent leads are inserted through an epidural needle or a small incision into the locations determined during the trial procedure. A small incision is created near the buttocks or abdomen for the implantable pulse generator (IPG) battery to be implanted. The leads are then connected to the IPG battery. The implant’s electrical pulses are programmed with an external remote, which allows you to turn the system on or off, and adjust the stimulation power level and select different programs.

Preparing for the Spinal Cord Stimulator

Before pursuing a Spinal Cord Stimulation, prospective patients should have tried conservative methods, such as physical therapy, chiropractic, and spinal injections. If those methods have not produced meaningful relief, you may be a candidate for a North American Spine procedure.

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Spinal Cord Stimulator Recovery

Most patients will be able to return to work or play the very next day, though the incision site may have some dull soreness. More in-depth, customized recovery guidelines will be provided by your North American Spine physician. While every medical procedure carries some risk of injury or infection, complications and adverse events are very rare. Your physician will counsel you on these risks prior to the procedure.

To determine if you are a candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator, contact us anytime at 877.474.2225 or submit a form on this page.

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Mary R

Condition: Bulging Disc

Procedure: Spinal Cord Stimulator

Hometown: Texas

“This Procedure has Truly Changed my Life”

"Before the procedure, I was in constant pain. My thoughts were consumed with worry, dread and frustration over my situation. All of the activities I used to enjoy like exercise and dancing were a distant memory. Even simple daily tasks like walking, making the bed and tying my shoes were a struggle. The pain was such a distraction that I never smiled and was always grumpy."

Connect With A Patient

Some of our former patients have been kind enough to offer to speak with back and neck pain sufferers who are looking into treatment options. We encourage you to take them up on it! After we determine a treatment plan, we’ll connect you with a past patient who had a similar condition and procedure.

Connect with a Patient

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