Spinal cord stimulator (SCS) implants are performed for individuals that may suffer from chronic pain, have severe nerve pain or injury, or may have prior failed back surgeries. SCS is an implanted device that generates and distributes a small electrical impulse to the spinal cord. These electrical impulses interfere with the normal nerve activity of the back thus effectively eliminating pain and the sensation of pain to the brain.
Patients that are candidates for this procedure have usually had their pain indication and disability for over 12 months and must have failed other conservative measures of pain control.
Typically, a trial stimulator is first performed to provide an optimal location for the device and see whether the pain improves. The variability of electrical pulse strength is also determined during the trial period (prior to permanently implanting the device under the skin, typically in the abdomen region). The permanent device uses electrical leads (wires) inserted into the spinal canal that send electrical impulses interfering with the nerve pulses of pain to the brain.
After the procedure is completed, the patient will be able to control the device and pain. Typically the patient uses the device for a couple of hours a day at different intervals (3-4).
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) works for approximately 50% of patients, hence the purpose of the trial period and temporary unit. It is also possible that the initial pain relief experienced after the procedure may be temporary, as the decline in effectiveness over an extended period of time has been reported.