A Spinal Cord Stimulator is a type of implantable neuromodulation device. The purpose of this is to send electrical signals to selected areas of the spinal cord for the treatment of certain pain conditions. This device placed under your skin through a surgery. It sends a mild electric current to your spinal cord.
How stimulator works?
A small wire carries the current from a pulse generator to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. When you turned on the SCS, it stimulates the nerves in the area where your pain is felt. Pain is reduced because the electrical pulses modify and mask the pain signal from reaching your brain.
Spinal cord stimulation has become a widely used and effective method for the management of chronic pain, especially for those who become unresponsive to conservative therapies.
If you’re thinking that stimulator eliminates the source of pain than you’re wrong. Stimulator just interferes with the signal to the brain and if brain can’t get signals than you will not feel pain. Stimulator also restores the normal pain-inhibition pathways that may have been lost. It restores the pathways by evoke the body’s natural pain-relief substances; chemical neurotransmitters, that are used by nerves to communicate with each other. Ultimately, this results in pain reduction and the presence of ischaemia improved microcirculation.
The amount of pain relief varies for each person. Spinal cord stimulation helps to reduce 50 to 70 % of pain. SCS has good results in various clinical situations of chronic pain. However it is more useful in vascular pain–refractory angina and peripheral vascular diseases (PVD); rachidian pain–failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS), degenerative low back leg pain (LBLP), nerve root lesions, incomplete spine lesions, spinal stenosis; neuropathic pain; chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS) type 1 and type 2; perineal pain and urological diseases.
- At first, anesthesia is applied at the injection site.
- Then doctor insert a hollow needle into the area around the spinal cord. The needle contains thin wires called leads, with electrical supply attached.
- Permanent leads are then implanted; part of the lamina may be removed to allow the placement of permanent leads.
- The generator is implanted under the skin. Incision is made where the generator will be placed. It is usually placed in the abdomen, upper buttocks, or upper chest.
- Wires are tunneled from the leads to the generator and connected, and enables the current to flow when the controller is turned on later.
- The incision is closed and the person begins recovery.
Once the SCS has been programmed, doctor gives you instructions for regulating the stimulation by controlling the strength and the duration of each stimulation period.
- Improved ability to participate in activities of daily life
- Effective for extremities, back, and/or leg pain relief
- SCS technology automatically adjusts as you move your body
- The power to manage your own treatment
No surgery is without risk, complications related to SCS may include;
- Battery failure or battery leakage
- Cerebrospinal fluid leak
- Persistent pain at the electrode or stimulator site
- A pocket of clear fluid (seroma) at the implant site, which usually disappears by themselves but may require a drain in some cases.
- Lead migration, which can result in changes in stimulation and reduction in pain relief
- Allergic response to implant materials
- Generator migration or local skin erosion
- Paralysis, weakness, clumsiness, numbness, or pain below the level of implantation
Zaki Anwar MD is an Anesthesiologist and Interventional Pain Management Specialist. He has vast expertise for the diagnosis and treatment of back pain, headaches, migraines, neck pain, sciatica pain and various pain conditions.
For further queries call on 815-412-6174