Spinal Cord Stimulator Trials and Implants

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is a procedure that uses low voltage electrical impulses or stimulation of the spinal nerves to block pain of the back, arms and legs. A small battery-powered generator is implanted in the body that transmits an electrical current to the spinal cord.

It is mainly indicated in patients who have long-term (chronic) leg or arm pain, and have not found relief through conservative treatment.

Ideal candidate for a Spinal Cord Stimulator

Patients with the following diagnosis should consider a spinal cord stimulator:

  • Post-laminectomy syndrome

  • Epidural Fibrosis

  • Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

  • Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy

  • Failed Neck/Back Surgery Syndrome

  • Failed conservative treatments


Step 1: The Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial

This involves temporary placement of a stimulator wire in the patients back under local anaesthesia and x-ray guidance in an outpatient setting. The wire is attached to a power source and stimulator is turned ON. Patient is awakened now to help the physician in the correct placement of the wire. This wire is covered with a dressing and connected to an external battery pack for a trial period of five to seven days.

This trial period is used to evaluate if the patient experiences at least 50-70% relief from pain and also feels comfortable with the sensations of stimulation. In successful trial cases, permanent stimulator, wire and battery are implanted into the spinal disc.

Step 2: Implantation of the Spinal Cord Stimulator

The initial procedure till wire insertion is exactly same as trial process. Once the wire is in the appropriate area, it is anchored and battery is implanted under patients skin. Patient may experience some discomfort for few days after the procedure at the implantation site. All the instructions given by physician should be followed to avoid any complication.

Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation

  • Patient feels a more pleasant tingling sensation rather than pain

  • Lowers the level of pain

  • Improves the quality of daily living

  • Patient can live a more active lifestyle

  • Decreases the amount of pain medication