Spinal cord stimulation involves the placement of small leads (or catheter with metal contacts) into the epidural space to electrically stimulate the nerves within the spinal cord. This does not cure the underlying injury but rather treats the pain associated with the injury. This treatment is typically reserved for patients who have undergone extensive treatment but are left with chronic pain. The goal of this therapy is to change the sensation the patient is feeling from a painful one to a soothing tingling sensation. It is a distraction therapy, giving the patient a different sensation to feel rather than the pain.
After your physician has determined that you are an appropriate candidate for this treatment, they will schedule you for a trial. A trial is required to determine the best position for the leads (at which spinal level) and to determine whether this therapy will result in symptomatic relief before the final implant is performed. During the trial the leads will be inserted and then attached to an external programmer (remote) that you will wear for the duration of the trial. The average trial lasts approximately 5-7 days, and during that period you will come into the office frequently for evaluation and when necessary, the stimulation pattern will be adjusted to provide optimum results. At the end of the trial period, the leads will be removed and you and Dr. Kloth will decide whether or not the trial was successful. In some cases, trial leads are sewn into position for later permanent implantation; this approach is typically used when a longer trial is desired.
If the trial is deemed a success, you will be scheduled for permanent implantation of the stimulator device. This will include implanting the leads and a generator. The trial, the removal of the trial leads, and the permanent implant are all typically done on an outpatient basis. Spinal cord stimulation is an effective treatment for many conditions including chronic radiculopathy, failed back syndrome, complex regional pain syndromes, and a variety of nerve injuries or other neuropathic pain conditions.
There are three major companies that produce spinal cord stimulators. For additional information on each company please see their websites.
Boston Scientific http://www.bostonscientific.com/us/patients/chronic-pain.html
St. Jude Medical http://www.poweroveryourpain.com/