Spinal Cord Stimulation: Advantages and Risks and Who is a Candidate?
Advantages to Stimulation
There are many advantages to spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation for the treatment of chronic back pain:
- A trial of stimulation can be done first to make sure the patient has a good response to stimulation before the patient commits to a permanent implant.
- It is easily reversible; if it doesn't work or is no longer needed it can be removed.
- It has few side effects.
- Implantation of the system is usually minimally invasive, requiring a minor surgical procedure on an outpatient basis.
- Pain relief with SCS can allow patients to reduce or eliminate their use of narcotic drugs.
- Developments in programmable systems and patient-controlled devices allow patients to adjust stimulation rapidly in response to changes in the location or severity of their pain. As mentioned above, with current MICC technologies available, the patient can program his or her own system.
- Continuous improvements in the design of electrodes and longer lasting, easily rechargeable batteries mean entire implantable systems can be placed. While rechargeable systems by themselves do not provide any better stimulation than systems that require battery changes every 3-4 years, the newer technology (MICC) may give better and more efficient pain control than other types of spinal cord stimulation systems.
- The system is completely implanted. Patients can travel anywhere and participate in many nonimpact recreational activities, including swimming.
What Are the Risks of Stimulation?
Like any procedure, there are always potential risks involved. The incident of these risks is low, but may include:
- Weakness, numbness, clumsiness, paralysis
- Battery failure and/or battery leakage
- Spinal fluid leak from the spinal canal, causing headache
- Undesirable changes in stimulation may occur over time because of scar tissue forming around the leads, or movement of the lead position
- Allergic reaction to implanted materials
Am I a Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation?
- If you have chronic back pain, with or without leg pain, and this pain is not due to movement (ie, mechanical pain)
- If you have chronic neck pain, with or without arm pain, and this pain is not due to movement (ie, mechanical pain)
- If you have had back surgery, but still have pain and this pain is not due to movement (ie, mechanical pain)
- If you have peripheral neuropathy
- If you have peripheral vascular disease
- If you have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), now known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- If you have Refractory Angina (angina that has not responded to stenting, bypass, and/or medications)
- If you have chronic post inguinal hernia repair pain " If you have chronic abdominal pain (that is due to abnormal nerve function)
- If other treatments have not helped your pain
- If you do not have a pacemaker and are not pregnant
How Can I Find Out More about Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Talk to your spine doctor or pain specialist to find out more about neurostimulation with SCS.