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Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has existed since 1989 and is usually used as a final treatment option if you're experiencing chronic back pain. Oftentimes its used to treat the following conditions:

Pain from a failed back surgery

Non-mechanical neck and back pain

Complex regional pain syndrome

Peripheral neuropathy

Refractory angina

Your doctor may recommend spinal cord stimulation of other methods of pain treatments have failed. It's a procedure that uses low-level electrical signals to help block pain signals from traveling to the brain. 

What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal Cord Stimulation: About the Procedure

An SCS procedure is invasive and involves implanting electrodes into your spinal canal, a pulse generator in your abdomen or buttocks, and wires to connect those electrodes to the generator. From there, your doctor will use an external control unit to control the output strength of the pulse generator and to turn it on and off when needed.

There are a few different types of stimulation systems available that your doctor may recommend. For example, one common fully implanted system and includes a pulse generator. Many of the newer devices include rechargeable pulse generator systems and others include pulse generator systems that don't require recharging. However, these ones tend to last a shorter amount of time before requiring a replacement. 

Spinal Cord Stimulation: When is Spinal Cord Stimulation Necessary?

If you've tried other methods to treat your back pain and nothing seems to be working, your doctor may recommend spinal cord stimulation. However, it's important to note that the device isn't for everyone, so you should always double check with your doctor to determine if you're a good candidate for the procedure. 

Spinal Cord Stimulation: Pros

SCS is reversible: this means, if the device doesn't work for you, your doctor can remove it. 

the procedure only requires a small incision

many insurance companies cover the procedure

SCS may decrease dependency on painkillers

SCS may prevent the need for other complex procedures

SCS may improve your quality of life by alleviating pain

Spinal Cord Stimulation: Cons

Increased risk of infection and bleeding

The battery for the pulse generator may leak or fail

Spinal fluid may leak from your spinal canal, resulting in headaches

With SCS, you can no longer receive MRI testing

In addition, one of the biggest risks associated with SCS is that it may fail. On top of that, your body may become resistant to the electric pulses over time, meaning your pain may return. 

Even though the incision needed to perform an SCS procedure is small, it's important to remember it's still considered an invasive surgical procedure. So, it should always be a last resort after your doctor rules out more conservative treatment options.

Spinal Cord Stimulation: Prognosis

The prognosis for patients with spinal cord problems varies depending on your individual condition. However, with new technology and medical treatments such as SCS, your outlook for living a more pain-free life is better than ever. If your SCS is successful, chances are you'll experience an improved quality of life and decrease in your pain levels. If you ever have questions or concerns about the device or begin experiencing adverse reactions, contact your doctor.

Orthopedics, Spinal cord stimulation


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