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Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is an advanced procedure that has evolved in clinical use since the late 1960’s. It involves the placement of programmable electrodes into the epidural space where they emit signals to the spinal cord to mask pain signals. If SCS is recommended, the patient will first undergo a trial placement in an outpatient clinic setting. Electrodes will be placed with x-ray guidance and custom programmed to provide relief of the particular pain condition. Over the next 3-5 days, the patient will be able to test the SCS system to see how much it relieves the pain and improves function. If the trial is successful, the patient will be scheduled to undergo surgical implantation at an area hospital. The implantation is similar to that required for placement of a pace-maker and does not require an overnight stay in-hospital.

Conditions treated with SCS:

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS) , post-laminectomy pain
  • Neuropathic pain from diabetes or peripheral vascular disease
  • Neuralgia/Neuritis
  • Radicular pain syndrome or radiculopathies resulting in pain secondary to FBSS or herniated disk
  • Degenerative Disk Disease (DDD)/herniated disk pain refractory to conservative and surgical interventions
  • Epidural fibrosis
  • Arachnoiditis or lumbar adhesive arachnoiditis
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), or causalgia

How long does a SCS trial placement take?

A SCS trial typically takes roughly 60 minutes.

How does spinal cord stimulation work?

The spinal cord stimulator provides a signal to the spinal cord that competes with pain signals to block or masks the pain signals from being sent to the brain.

How long will the trial be?

Spinal cord stimulator trials usually last between 3 to 5 days.

How will I feel during my trial?

Most patients describe a pleasant tingling in place of their usual pain. You may notice you require less pain medication or that you can walk further or sleep better.

My trial went well, what is my next step?

After a successful trial, your physician will begin the process of scheduling you for outpatient surgery to have a system implanted.

Do I have to stop taking my pain medications for this procedure?

You are encouraged to continue taking your pain medications as prescribed.