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Spinal cord stimulation is a form of therapy that can relieve chronic pain symptoms and decrease your need for medication and other treatments by blocking the pain signals before they reach the brain.
A spinal cord stimulator is a small electrical device that is permanently implanted in the body and delivers electrical pulses to a specific point on the spinal cord which blocks pain arising from the spine and/or extremities. The technology is very similar to the way cardiac pacemakers deliver electrical impulses to very specific areas of the heart. It is an ideal option for patients who suffer from chronic back, leg, and arm pain that has not responded to other therapies including failed spinal surgeries.
Does this device eliminate pain?
No, a spinal cord stimulator cannot eliminate the source of your pain. Rather, it blocks your body’s ability to send the pain signal to the brain, dramatically reducing its intensity.
There are two steps involved in the process to place your spinal cord stimulator. The first is a trial period with the stimulator to ensure that the device will work for your pain.
Under local anesthesia and the guidance of an X-ray, we will insert the trial device into the “epidural space” – the area between your spinal cord and bone. We will then attach the wires to an external device that you will wear over a belt.
This procedure is performed as an outpatient and you will be free to return to your normal routine later that day. Over the next several days, you will need to keep a log of the level of pain relief you experience.
If your trial is a success, we will implant your permanent spinal cord stimulator. This procedure is performed under local anesthesia and light sedation.
The procedure involves:
Step 1: Insert the electrode leads through a small incision in the middle of your back.
Step 2: Test the leads during the surgery to ensure that they are effectively blocking the areas of pain.
Step 3: Use sutures to secure the electrode leads in the epidural space.
Step 4: Make a small incision along the belt line to make space below the skin to insert the stimulator battery.
Step 5: Tunnel the lead wires from the spine to the battery and connect and test the system.
The patient is lightly sedated during the testing portion of the procedure, but the remainder of the procedure is performed under deeper sedation such that the patient has little to no recall of the event.
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