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Pain Management Procedures

Spinal Cord Stimulator

Overview
A spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulator is an implantable medical device used in pain management services. If your acute or chronic pain condition is not responding to other forms of treatment, your interventional pain management physician may prescribe a spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulator. The pain management physicians at the Minimally Invasive Pain Institute can help determine if stimulation is the right treatment for you. Individual results may vary, but most patients find that this form of treatment makes their pain more manageable and allows them to gain the pain relief they need to return to a more active life.

How Spinal Cord and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation is used to Treat Pain

Spinal cord stimulators send mild electrical impulses to the epidural space near the spine. These impulses alter the perception of pain by replacing pain with a tingling sensation. Patients who seek spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation for pain management will first undergo a trial period for about seven days. If the patient and pain management physician determine that this form of treatment is effective, then a permanent procedure will be pursued.

  • Temporary Stimulation Procedure: To initiate the trial period, a temporary procedure will be conducted. The injection site will be anesthetized and one or more insulated wire leads will be inserted through an epidural needle or through a small incision in the epidural space. Electrodes at the end of the lead produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerve blocking pain signals. Once proper positioning is attained, the lead is connected to an external trial stimulator, which will be used for approximately one week.
  • Permanent Stimulation Procedure:  If proven effective in providing acute or chronic pain relief, the system may be permanently implanted. A small incision is made to allow permanent leads to be positioned within a predetermined space and an implantable pulse generator battery is positioned beneath the skin – often in the buttocks or abdomen. The permanent lead is connected to the battery. An external control unit allows the patient to program electrical impulses, turn the system on or off, adjust the stimulation power level, or switch between programs.

Due to the magnets used in spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulators, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. If you undergo this advanced form of treatment, you will be advised to avoid physically demanding activities and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices. Those travelling in an airport may be required to carry an authorized note explaining the implant so they can get through security and board a plane. Also, it is recommended that patients turn off their system before they enter or exit retail stores with certain security systems, as they can alter stimulation levels.

How does it Work?
Depending on your pain, one or more leads may be placed in a space predetermined by one of our pain management physicians. At the end of these leads are electrodes which produce electrical pulses. The stimulation feels like a mild tingling sensation. The electrical current the spinal cord stimulator produces interrupts the pain signals sent to your brain, which reduces your pain. It is important to remember that this procedure does not remove the source of your pain, but it interferes with the nerve signals to your brain, therefore, the amount of pain relief achieved with this procedure may vary. 

For a better understanding of interventional pain treatment services, contact the healthcare professionals at Minimally Invasive Pain Institute.  They can help customize a treatment for you and your acute or chronic pain condition. To find out if you are a good candidate, or for more information on this and other pain treatment services, read on or contact our pain management center.  Together, we’ll help you find the relief you need for the quality of life you deserve.