The most commonly reported side effects of using a spinal cord stimulator are infection and pain at the incision site, according to Medtronic. Other possible side effects include bleeding, an allergic reaction, weakness, clumsiness and numbness, notes Spine-health. Some patients may suffer paralysis or have spinal cord fluid leakage, which can lead to headaches. The skin around the implant site may break down.
Pain at the incision site usually lessens within a few weeks, but as time progresses, there are other spinal cord simulator risks, states Spine-health. To fix a battery leakage or failure, the patient needs additional surgery. Scar tissue sometimes forms around the leads, and the electrode may move, resulting in a decrease in the stimulator's effects. Some patients also report that the stimulation the implant provides is no longer effective after one to two years of treatment.
Patients should also know that the spinal cord stimulator only works to reduce pain in 50 to 60 percent of people, explains Spine-health. Doctors consider the stimulator a success if it reduces pain by 50 percent. The stimulator does not fix the underlying cause of the pain; instead, the stimulator works to interrupt the pain signals transmitted to the brain.