What is the purpose of the Spinal Cord Stimulator?

Spinal Cord Stimulation is a treatment option for patients suffering from Complex Regional Pain Syndromes also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, nerve damage, failed back surgery pain, spinal cord damage, phantom limb pain, and pain caused by blood vessel disease.  These patients have not obtained adequate relief from oral medications or other procedures.  It is not a “first line” treatment and is performed after more conservative therapies have failed.  The Spinal Cord stimulator electrically stimulates the spinal cord with a low voltage impulse that blocks the sensation of pain.  Electrical stimulation is delivered through an implanted lead near the spinal cord in the epidural space.  The lead is connected to an implanted battery or a receiver that receives energy from an external battery.

The procedure is done in two stages at different times.  In the trial stage, temporary wires are placed and an external device is used by the patients to generate electrical stimulation.  A trial is done to ensure you obtain adequate pain relief.  If the trial is successful in relieving your pain, then the permanent device is placed under the skin, usually about two weeks later.

What does the procedure involve?

The spinal cord stimulation trial implant is an outpatient procedure performed in the Special Procedure room under sterile conditions.  In the pre-procedure area, you will change into a patient gown.  A nurse will take a brief medical history from you and start your IV and your vital signs will also be taken.  Your physician will be there to talk to you and to obtain consent for the procedure.  The procedure is performed with you lying on your stomach.

The doctor will cleanse your back with antiseptic solution and inject some numbing medicine.  You may feel a burning sensation that usually lasts only a few seconds.  With the help of a special x-ray machine called a fluoroscope, the doctor will place a needle through the skin next to the nerves that need to be stimulated.  When the needle is in the correct position, the doctor will advance the spinal cord stimulating wires through the needle, connect them to a special battery, and begin stimulating the nerve with electrical impulses.  You will most likely feel a tingling sensation in the area where your usual pain is.   The tingling sensation means the electrical impulses are going to the right place.  The electrical current coming from the battery will be adjusted until the sensation is no longer unpleasant.

After the procedure, we ask that you remain at the Center until the doctor feels that you are ready to leave.

Can I go to sleep for the procedure?

During the procedure you will need to communicate with the doctor and tell him the type of sensation you are experiencing, so you will not be put to sleep.  If needed, you will receive enough medication to keep you relaxed and comfortable.

How long will the procedure take?

Usually, the spinal cord stimulator trial implant will take one hour or longer.

What should I do before the procedure?

It is asked that you do not eat or drink anything after midnight the day before the procedure.  Please continue all of your medications with a sip of water unless otherwise instructed by your Physician.  If you are a diabetic, discuss your medication with your doctor. 

You may need to stop taking certain medications several days before the procedure.  Please remind the doctor of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including herbal and vitamin supplements.  Please bring a list of medications and dosages the day of your procedure.

Tell the doctor if you develop a cold, fever or flu like symptoms before your scheduled appointment. 

Is there anything that I need to do after the procedure?

The purpose of the trial placement is to determine how much pain relief can be achieved and if you can increase your level of physical activity.  Do not expect to be completely pain free.

Keep the area dry and clean to help prevent infection.

Do not bathe or shower while the trial leads are in.

You are asked to perform daily activities, especially those that normally produce pain so we can determine to what extent you can increase your level of function.

You may experience some muscle discomfort at the needle site.  This may be treated with a mild pain reliever such as Tylenol.

Do not drive.  Please have an adult drive you home or accompany you.  Depending on how you feel, you may resume normal activities.

A representative will follow up with you one to two days after the procedure.

Call the Pain Office IMMEDIATELY if:
1) Redness or swelling at the site
2) Dressing comes off
3) New onset weakness or change of sensation of the arms or legs

What are the risks of a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial?

The risks are minimal but potentially include: spinal cord compression; infection; spinal fluid leak; meningitis; movement of the wires; bleeding and hardware failure.

Please contact that doctor as soon as possible if you experience any redness or swelling in the area, fever, chills, an alteration of the stimulation pattern, movement of the electrical signal, or battery failure.

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Yasmin was, and always will be, a shining example of a how a person can achieve anything with hard work and a life-affirming attitude. She gave more than she took, she loved more than she feared, and she nurtured her family and friends at every opportunity. We will always remember Yasmin as a woman of strength, courage and compassion. 

Due to her untimely passing from brain cancer, we have set up a trust fund for her two children, Niles and Nylah. Please make your checks payable to: The YANN Trust (Yasmin Algarin Niles Nylah), 197 Ridgedale Ave., Suite 210, Cedar Knolls, NJ 07927.

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The pages on this website contain general guidelines and information based on acceptable standards and should not be construed as medical advice. 

Please consult your own physician for appropriate management about your medical condition.