Spinal cord stimulation, also called neuromodulation, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrodes to reduce chronic nerve pain. During the procedure, small leads (medical wires) are placed around the area of reported pain, usually in the epidural space above the spinal cord. These leads produce electrical impulses that override pain signals being sent to the brain. Spinal cord stimulation is typically reserved for patients with severe neuropathic pain (i.e. radiculopathy, diabetic or peripheral neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), etc.) that has not responded to other treatments for at least six months.
What To Expect
Before the permanent device can be implanted, patients must first undergo a trial procedure with a temporary stimulator. This provisional device allows patients to experience spinal cord stimulation. It also helps physicians determine whether or not the permanent device will be successful in relieving pain. During the permanent implantation, patients must lie face down so the surgical site can be properly sanitized for surgery. A TriState Pain Institute physician will administer conscious sedation and a local anesthetic to reduce discomfort throughout the operation.
Once the anesthetic has taken effect, an incision will be made in a predetermined location around the epidural space. A hollow needle is then placed into the incision where small leads will be inserted and implanted. Another small incision will be made for the implantable pulse generator (IPG), which will be positioned underneath the skin either in the buttocks or the abdomen. The incisions will be closed and the patient will be sent to a recovery room.
Following the permanent implantation, a TriState Pain Institute physician will program the internal IPG with an external wireless programmer. During this time, the patient will be taught how to turn the system on or off, adjust the power, and choose different programs. Swelling and mild discomfort around the surgical site is normal and should dissipate after several days. Patients who develop a fever, rash, or experience increased bleeding should call TriState Pain Institute right away. Because this is an outpatient procedure that requires anesthesia, patients will need to driven home after their surgery. Normal activities can be resumed after several days.