Backache, Medical Exam, Rear View, Showing spinal column in redWhat Is It?

In cases where patients receive little to no relief from conservative treatments (OTC medications, opioid medications, physical therapy, or corticosteroid injections) for chronic back, neck, arm, or leg pain, spinal cord stimulation may be a solution. This therapy can mask pain signals before they reach the brain by using a small, pacemaker-type device to deliver electrical pulses to the spinal cord. The spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is surgically placed beneath the skin where thin wires carry the current to the nerve fibers.

What to Expect

You may need to complete tests before the surgery (blood tests, EKG, or chest X-ray), as well as discuss any medications you’re taking with your doctor. A complete medical history is necessary, including any allergies, bleeding history, and reactions to anesthesia or other medications. Be open and honest with your physician for the best results.

For the procedure, patients will be required to lie on their stomach on the table before receiving a light anesthesia. Electrode leads will then be inserted using fluoroscopy. A portion of your vertebra will be removed to make room for the leads. These leads will be positioned and then secured with sutures.

At this point, you may be awakened so you can answer questions from your physician about the stimulation you feel in particular pain areas. According to your responses, leads may be adjusted or re-inserted. When the leads are in place, the wire is passed under the skin to the implanted generator.

How to Prepare

On the day of your surgery, fast for at least six hours before the procedure. Shower the morning of your surgery with this soap, and then dress in clean, loose-fitting clothing. Your physician or nurse may provide an antibacterial soap; if not, you can find this at any drug store. You’ll also want to remove any hairpins, contact lenses, nail polish, jewelry, or piercings.