Spinal Cord Stimulation
How Does Spinal Cord Stimulation for Chronic Pain Work?
Chronic pain develops when the body’s appropriate response to an injury lasts longer than it should. This pain no longer protects the body from injury but becomes harmful on its own. Chronic pain can lead to problems working, eating, exercising, or pursuing other activities of daily life. This can wear a person down leading to other chronic health problems such as depression, and weight gain, as well as issues related to medication overuse to manage the pain.
Nerve signals are being transmitted from the body to the brain constantly. This helps prevent injury by making a person aware that something is wrong. Unfortunately, when nerves are damaged, they can send pain signals to the brain even if an injury is not occurring. Spinal cord stimulation can be used to disrupt these signals so the brain doesn’t receive them.
What is a Neurostimulator Implant?
A neurostimulation implant is placed surgically to deliver mild electrical signals near the spine in order to prevent pain signals from traveling to the brain. The implant itself is about the size of a small watch. There is a handheld control to adjust the level and location of stimulation to address any changes in pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Procedure
Designed to closely mimic an implanted system, a temporary evaluation system consists of three parts that work together to manage your pain:
The external generator is a small device that produces mild electrical pulses to manage your chronic pain. It can be taped or secured to your lower back and is easily hidden.
The leads are thin wires that deliver the electrical pulses from the generator to the nerves along the spinal cord responsible for your chronic pain.
The patient controller is an external, handheld device that allows you to adjust the therapy or turn it off entirely.
Spinal Cord Stimulation Implants
Before your implant procedure, your doctor will go over everything you need to know and help answer any remaining questions you may have. Your doctor will also discuss with you what type of generator and leads you’ll receive, as well as where on your body the generator will be implanted (typically the abdomen or buttock area).
DURING THE PROCEDURE
The implant procedure generally takes 1-2 hours. It involves two major parts: placement of the leads and placement of the generator.
Step 1: Preparation
You’ll lie on the operating room table (typically on your stomach) and be given light sedation. Local anesthetic will be used to numb the incisions.
Step 2: Placing the leads
The leads are inserted and placed in the area of the spine responsible for your particular type of spinal pain.
Step 3: Implanting the generator
The leads are attached to the generator. Then the generator is placed in an area of the body you and your doctor will have decided upon before the procedure.
The doctor will close up the incisions and you’ll be moved to a post-operative recovery area until you are well enough to go home. Before you leave, your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for your incisions and how to use the programmer to adjust your neurostimulation therapy.
ABOUT BURSTDR™ STIMULATION
BurstDR™ stimulation is a unique kind of neurostimulation that changes the way pain signals travel to your brain. It actually changes the way you perceive those signals, providing potential relief from physical pain as well as the emotional suffering that comes with it.
If you’ve tried traditional neurostimulation in the past and it didn’t work for you, or if you experienced side effects you couldn’t tolerate, Abbott’s proprietary BurstDR™ stimulation has been clinically proven to:
- Provide better pain relief than traditional neurostimulation therapy
- Reduce or eliminate the tingling sensation felt with traditional neurostimulation
- Make it easier to perform everyday activities
High Frequency Spinal Cord Stimulation
After having good results from the SCS trial period the next step is having a permanent implantation of a high frequency SCS system. High frequency systems are a good alternative to low frequency spinal cord stimulation in patients with diabetic neuropathy, since they suffer from severe tingling. However, high frequency stimulation is not effective for all patients as pain management.
Spinal Cord Stimulation Side Effects
Nerve stimulation therapies are generally a safe procedure. The most common complications were unintended migration of the device lead, or the lead failing to connect. However, these complications are becoming less common as advances in technology continue to progress. Other risks associated with surgery in general are pain at the surgical site, infection and bleeding.
Spinal Implant for Pain
Spinal cord stimulation can address pain using the low frequency system or a high frequency therapy. The low frequency option treats pain in 50% to 60% of patients, but the high frequency can reach the same levels in about 80% of patients. Surgery is required to place the implant, and the recovery period is about six weeks to eight weeks.