Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant

Spinal cord stimulation, or SCS, relies on electrical impulses to relieve chronic pain of the backs, arms and legs. The electrical impulses block the pain signals sent to the brain. They’re often recommended for neuropathic pain, especially if more conservative treatments have been attempted.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implantation Procedure

Patients begin the procedure lying on their stomach. Your orthopaedic doctor will first anesthetize the injection site on your lower back. An epidural needle will be carefully injected into your back. Special insulated wire leads will be carefully threaded through the epidural needle and into the epidural space in your spine. The electrodes in this insulated wire produce electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves and block your pain.

You’ll need to be awake during the procedure because your feedback is vital to proper placement of the leads. Your orthopaedic doctor will trigger the electrical pulse and you will need to tell them whether you’re experiencing a reduction in your back pain, leg pain or arm pain. If you aren’t experiencing relief your doctor will reposition the leads. The process will be repeated until you begin to experience pain relief.

The wire will be connected to an external “trial stimulator.” You’ll use that trial stimulator for about a week to see if the spinal cord stimulator works for you. This trial stimulator looks like a little box, and it will be connected to the wire going into your back.

It’s necessary to be extremely cautious with both the trial stimulator and the wire. For example, patients will be warned not to shower or take baths while the trial stimulator is implanted. You’ll need to limit yourself to sponge-bathing for that week and you’ll need to avoid activities that require a lot of twisting, reaching overhead or lifting anything weighing more than five pounds.

At the end of the trial period, you’ll need to go back to Non-Surgical Orthopaedics to get the trial SCS removed or replaced with a permanent system. Patients who found relief thanks to the SCS pulses will have their trial spinal cord stimulator replaced with an entirely internal stimulator.

During this second procedure the trial wire will be removed, and the permanent electrodes will be placed with the same method used during the initial trial wire placement. After the electrodes are in place a small incision will be made above your buttocks or in your abdomen, and a small implantable pulse generator battery will be placed in the skin. The lead wire then connects to this battery. This way you aren’t required to carry around an external battery or system and none of the wire will be exposed.

The electrical pulses from the implant will be controlled with a wireless programmer. You can use the programmer to turn the electrical pulses on or off and control the stimulation power levels. The most common side effect of the procedure is mild discomfort and swelling at the incision and injection sites for a few days, but most patients describe the pain as mild. The recovery is generally far less disruptive than more invasive surgical alternatives.


Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Right for You?

If you haven’t found relief for low back pain, leg pain or arm pain from more traditional pain management injections or medications, you should schedule a consultation with the orthopaedic specialists at Non-Surgical Orthopaedics. We’ll analyze your pain, discuss your past efforts at pain management and discuss whether an alternative approach like a spinal cord stimulator implant may be a good alternative for your chronic pain management.

Schedule an appointment at our Marietta or Carrollton orthopaedic offices by calling 770-421-1420. We look forward to helping you find a minimally invasive solution to your back pain, arm pain or leg pain.