Spinal cord stimulation is used for nerve pain associated with post laminectomy syndrome, radiculopathy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), phantom limb pain, or neuropathy that is resistant to medications and minimally-invasive, injection-based treatments.
A spinal cord stimulator is a small device with electrodes (leads) that are placed in your epidural space under live x-ray guidance. The epidural space is a space that exists in your spine within the spinal canal. This space sits between two planes of tissue: the sac of tissue that houses your spinal cord (dural sac) and the vertebral bones. The epidural space contains fat tissue along with blood vessels and nerve roots.
The lead sends currents to your spinal cord that compete with the entry of pain signals. Instead of pain, you may feel a mild, pleasant tingling sensation in the area where you usually feel pain.
There are two phases of spinal cord stimulator implantation. First, a trial is performed to test out the device before permanent implantation.
Spinal cord stimulator trials are performed under live fluoroscopic guidance to ensure the accuracy and safety of this procedure.
Prior to spinal cord stimulation implantation, an MRI is ordered to determine whether you have enough spinal space to have the lead placed. Also, insurance requires a psychological evaluation to help understand your needs and expectations of therapy.
The potential risks are very low, and include infection, bleeding, allergic reaction, and prolonged increases in pain. Your physician will use x-ray guidance and sterile techniques to reduce these risks, as well as to reduce the risk of nerve damage and spinal headache.