Spinal Cord Stimulation
Back Pain Management in Boulder, Aurora, Loveland & Across Colorado
Spinal cord stimulator implants are electrical devices that are surgically
implanted under the skin. This device is used to manage chronic pain and
increase a person’s ability to stand and walk for extended periods.
Approximately fifty thousand people undergo this procedure worldwide annually
to control their chronic pain.
What conditions are treatable with the spinal cord stimulator implant?
The device is most often used to control chronic pain related to FBSS (failed
back surgery syndrome), but is also be used to control chronic pain related
to other conditions of the spine such as CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome),
Peripheral Neuropathy, Causalgia, Arachnoiditis, and peripheral ischemic pain.
Do I need a spinal cord stimulator implant?
Due to the invasive nature and cost of the procedure, the device is only
used in select patients. A pain management physician should never recommend
this procedure until more conservative methods have proved ineffective
and they have confirmed that the implant will yield results. Research
indicates that 50-60% of patients experience a 50% reduction in pain or better.
How is the stimulator implant procedure performed?
Before the actual implant a test run will be performed. If patients report
a 50% or more decrease in pain levels during the test it is determined
a success and the implant procedure can be done. The trial procedure takes
only about twenty minutes to perform.
This is an outpatient, minimally invasive treatment procedure that can
be performed in one hour and requires that only a tiny incision be made
in the abdomen or upper buttock region. The implant will be connected
to electrodes implanted in the spine by very thin wire leads. The procedure
is performed with local anesthesia to numb the skin.
How long do the implants last?
This device is permanent and will continue to provide relief for several
years. However due to being battery powered the patient will need follow
up procedures every two – five years to install a new battery. Advancements
in rechargeable batteries are allowing this time between maintenance to
What risk or side effects are possible with the implant?
This device does not work for all patients; it does nothing to address
the cause of the patients’ pain but instead disrupts the nerve impulses
to the brain to stop pain. There is the risk of the patients’ body
rejecting the device and a risk of infection. Spinal fluid leakage may
occur, migration of electrode(s) which may result in the device being
ineffective and/or causing stimulation in an undesired area which could
cause further complications like pain and muscle spasms.
Numbness, weakness, loss of coordination, and paralysis are also possibilities.
The skin over the electrodes may breakdown and the device may lose effectiveness
after a period of time.
How successful are the implants for the relief of pain?
A reduction in felt pain of 50% of more is considered to be successful
with the device and 50-60% or recipients of the device report 50-70% decrease
in felt pain levels.
What is the bottom line on this procedure?
For patients that are unresponsive to medications, surgery, and other treatments,
or patients who have experienced failed back surgery; this device may
be their only recourse for pain management. Discuss your condition with
your pain management specialist to determine if this procedure is right for you.