Spinal cord stimulator surgery is done to test and implant a spinal cord stimulator, a device that sends low levels of electricity directly into the spinal cord to relieve pain.
Spinal cord stimulators consist of thin wires (the electrodes) and a small generator. During surgery, the electrodes are placed in the epidural space between the spinal cord and the vertebrae, and the generator is placed under the skin, near the buttocks or abdomen.
Once the device is implanted, patients use a handheld remote control to send electrical impulses when they feel pain. The remote control and its antenna are not implanted.
The mechanisms behind spinal cord stimulation are not fully understood, but experts know that treatment targets multiple muscle groups directly from the spine and even alters how the brain senses pain.
Traditional spinal cord stimulators create paresthesia by replacing the sensation of pain with light tingling. Some patients prefer newer devices that offer “sub-perception” stimulation that cannot be felt.
Spinal cord stimulation is performed under X-ray and/or ultrasound guidance by physicians with highly specialized training in interventional pain management.
Spinal cord stimulation is a treatment option for patients who have not experienced sufficient pain relief from nonsurgical pain treatment options. Patients with the following conditions may benefit from spinal cord stimulation:
The benefits of spinal cord stimulation include improved overall quality of life and sleep, and reduced need for pain medicines. It is typically used along with other pain management treatments, including exercise, medications, physical therapy, and relaxation methods.
Patients who benefit the most from spinal cord stimulation are those who: