Under What Circumstances Is a Trial of Spinal Cord Stimulation Considered for a Patient?


Quick Answer

A trial of spinal cord stimulation is considered for a patient when the patient has continuous or progressive back pain, nerve pain or numbness in one or more limbs, swelling in the lining of the brain and spinal cord, or complex regional pain syndrome, states MedlinePlus. Spinal cord stimulation is only used when other treatments, such as exercise, medication and surgery, have failed to adequately control pain or numbness.

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Full Answer

During a spinal cord stimulation trial, a doctor plants a single electrode into the space on top of the spinal cord, according to MedlinePlus. Wires travel from the electrode to a small current generator that the patient carries during his daily activities. If stimulation from the generator through the electrode diminishes pain by at least 50 percent during the trial, the doctor implants a permanent generator.

A surgeon inserts the permanent generator under the skin in the abdomen or buttocks area while the patient is under general anesthesia, states MedlinePlus. Some risks of the procedure include leaking spinal fluid, infection, nerve damage, pain from the surgery and problems with the generator that require additional surgeries. Recovery requires a period of rest with reduced physical activity. Spinal cord stimulation does not treat the cause of pain, and most patients still have some pain issues following the implantation procedure.

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