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What are some possible complications of spinal cord stimulation?

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Quick Answer

Possible complications of spinal cord stimulation include allergic reactions to the implant, infection, bleeding and undesirable stimulation in the rib area due to nerve root involvement, reports Spine-health. Scar tissue may form around the electrode, or the electrode may experience hardware failure, states WebMD.

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Patients may experience any of the complications associated with other types of surgical procedures, including bleeding and infection, explains Spine-health. The skin around the electrode may break down, and the patient may experience pain around the site of the incision. In some instances, spinal pain may become worse instead of getting better, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Patients may also experience complications that are specific to the spinal cord stimulation procedure, including overstimulation, device malfunction, and interaction of the device with other tests or devices, reports the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. In some situations, the stimulation may stop or work intermittently, or it may affect the wrong location. The lead may also become damaged or may move, necessitating a revision surgery.

Major complications are rare, and include paralysis, nerve injury or death, explains the International Neuromodulation Society. Stimulation often loses its effectiveness after one to two years, reports Spine-health.

The risk of complication reduces if a patient works with a qualified professional, according to the International Neuromodulation Society. Skilled techniques and improved technology have reduced mechanical complications.

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