Spinal cord stimulation candidates may include people who suffer from neuropathic pain and for whom conservative treatments have failed. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) uses electrical impulses to relieve chronic pain of the back, arms and legs. It is believed that electrical pulses prevent pain signals from being received by the brain – in effect, the stimulation “scrambles” the feeling of pain. Fortunately, patients can try SCS as a minimally invasive procedure to see if the device is right for them.
The SCS trial implant is done right in the pain clinic under fluoroscopy (x-ray guided). The pain physician will anesthetize the area where one or more insulated wire leads are inserted through an epidural needle or through a small incision into the space surrounding the spinal cord called the epidural space. Electrodes at the end of the lead produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerves aimed at blocking pain signals. The patient is awake during the entire procedure and gives feedback to help the physician determine
The leads are connected to an external trial simulator, and the patient (who is awake throughout the procedure) can give feedback to the physician to determine where to place the stimulators to best block the patient’s pain.
After about a week, patients return for an evaluation and to determine is SCS is right for them. If the patient and physician determine that the amount of pain relief is acceptable, the system may be permanently implanted.