Spinal Chord Stimulator Implant (Trial Procedure)


Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) is the electrical stimulation of a precise level of the spinal cord to generate paresthesia to the area(s) the patient feels pain. Spinal Cord Stimulation is an accepted pain management treatment for certain intractable pain conditions


Indications for spinal cord stimulation include the following:
Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBBS)
Adhesive Arachnoiditis
Peripheral Causalgia / Neuropathy
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Phantom Limb / Stump Pain
Ischemic Pain of a Vascular origin

Observing careful patient selection criteria ensures successful outcomes. Patients typically do best when most of their pain involves the limbs or lower back area. The patient will be required to have a psychological evaluation prior to approval for a trial in order to insure that there are no contraindications for a trial or permanent implant.

The injection site is numbed using a local anesthetic. One or more insulated wire leads are inserted through an epidural needle or through a needle into the space surrounding the spinal cord, called the epidural space. Electrodes at the end of the lead produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerves, blocking pain signals to the brain. The patient gives feedback to help the physician determine where to place the stimulators to best block the patient’s pain. The lead is connected to an external trial stimulator, which will be used for three to seven days to determine if Spinal Cord Stimulation will help the patient. If the patient and physician determine that the amount of pain relief is acceptable, the system may be permanently implanted. At the end of the trial implantation, the leads are removed.

What to Expect

The trail implant will be done as an outpatient basis with fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance with local anesthesia and lite sedation. The patient needs to tell the operator if the sensations from the stimulation pattern are covering the painful area and adjustment may need to be made for the final position/placement of the leads. The trial will last for 3-10 days with contact made with the patient during this time period. Once the trial is over the leads are simply removed and a decision will be made regarding a permanent implant. If a permanent implant is done a similar pattern of stimulation using the  leads and a stimulation generator, or IPG, will attempted. All components will be self-contained and under the skin in such a way as to be  controlled by way of a small remote.


With proper patient selection, psychological screening for contraindications and careful use of proper lead placement to cover the painful area as much as possible at the trial phase the outcome of spinal cord stimulation can be a life changer. It can cause the pain to be controllable for the patient with programing available for different pain patterns throughout the day if indicated. The goal is activity and functional improvement to reasonable levels determined in the initial patient evaluation process.