Neuromodulation can be a very effective treatment of pain and is approved for many conditions. This is particularly valuable for people who have had prior surgery and continue to have pain as well as people who have nerve damage/injury or neuropathy. Talk with your provider more about spinal cord stimulation for more details.
This process involves several steps:
- Prior to the stimulation you will meet with your surgeon or practitioner to learn more about the process. You may be referred for evaluation with a psychologist or social worker to be sure that you are a candidate for this treatment.
- The next phase of this treatment involves placement of a temporary electrode or “spinal cord stimulator trial.” This involves X-ray guided needle positioning of wires on top of the spinal cord. These wires then are tunneled under the skin and attached to a battery that is worn externally for several days. During this trial or “test drive,” you will work with the clinic and industry representatives to optimize the settings of your device. During this time, you will have the opportunity to gauge how much improvement you get from the spinal cord stimulator. After the trial period is completed, the electrodes are removed and the trial period is evaluated. Most patients elect to go to the third step of spinal cord stimulation which is permanent implantation.
- The permanent implant is done in an operating procedure room and this time the electrodes are placed and connected to a battery that is positioned underneath the skin. This type of configuration is not unlike placement of a pacemaker but in this instance the wires go to the spine and help control pain impulses coming from the nerves.
Complications can occur as a result of placement of a trial or an implant. Complications include but are not limited to:
- Internal bleeding
- Blood clots
- Nerve injury and/or damage
- Spinal fluid leakage
Altogether, these risks are smaller than the risks of traditional open surgery, and spinal cord stimulation treatment is considered reversible in that the underlying anatomy is not seriously altered.