Implantable Spinal Cord Stimulation
In spinal cord stimulation, an electrode is implanted through the skin into the epidural space of the spinal canal using fluoroscopic guidance. Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord causes the pain sensation to be blocked and replaced by a benign vibratory sensation. Spinal cord stimulation systems look and work a lot like pacemakers; in fact, they are sometimes called “pacemakers for pain.” Although spinal cord stimulation is not a cure for the cause of the pain, it can reduce pain to a manageable level so that patients can return to a more functional lifestyle.
This advanced pain therapy uses a small neurostimulation system that is surgically placed under the skin to send mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord or peripheral nerves. The impulses are delivered through a special medical wire (also called a "lead") that is also surgically placed. The electrical impulses block pain signals at the spinal cord level and prevent pain from being received and processed by the brain. The electrical impulses are felt as a tingling sensation, and can be directed to cover the specific area where pain is felt. This technique is also reversible and non-destructive and will usually decrease the need for pain medications. Neurostimulation patients typically experience a significant reduction in pain and an improved ability to function in daily activities. Patients are selected for this system based on their pain pattern and their personal desire regarding pain treatment. A trial of therapy is always necessary with a temporary system prior to making the decision implant the permanent device.