What is spinal cord stimulation?
Electricity has been known to be helpful in treating pain for over one thousand years. The modern era of pain treatment with electricity has been around since 1967. Since this time, spinal cord stimulation has evolved and gotten better at replacing chronic nerve pain with pain relief. Spinal Cord Stimulation is an ever evolving interventional technique that can be a long lasting pain solution for patients with chronic nerve-related pain. Most commonly these conditions are related to Failed Back Surgery Syndrome, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or a Peripheral Neuropathy.
How does the process work?
There are essentially two stages to a spinal cord stimulation implantation after you have been deemed to be a successful candidate, a trial and an implantation. Dr. Irwin will do a detailed assessment of your pain and if he thinks you could benefit from spinal cord stimulation he will need to refer you for psychological testing. This is a requirement of insurance companies to ensure there are no contraindications to the therapy.
Dr. Irwin will perform your spinal cord stimulation trial, and one or two epidural leads will be placed into the thoracic epidural space near the area of the spinal cord that transmits pain to the area of your chronic pain. The epidural leads have multiple metal contacts that will be used to transmit the electricity to your painful nerves. You will go home for 3-7 days and test the therapy. Our goal is to see significant pain reduction and restoration of normal function.
If the trial is successful in reducing your pain, you will then be sent for implantation where the leads go into the same area of your epidural space but are connected to an internal battery. The device is ultimately secured inside your body.
What Conditions are treated with Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation can be used to help with a variety of painful nerve related conditions including failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), peripheral neuropathy, pain from Shingles, phantom limb pain.
How do I get prepared for the trial process?
The initial stages involve a detailed physical examination and review of your prior therapies. If it is thought that stimulation might help, you will be sent for a pre-implantation psychological screen. If you remain as a candidate after this process you will be scheduled for the trial process. If you are taking any medications that might thin your blood you should this discuss this with Dr. Irwin to make sure we have approval from your Cardiologist to hold this medication for the appropriate number of days prior to and including the length of the trial. You will likely be given antibiotics during and after the trial, so please discuss with the pain doctor and staff if you have an antibiotic allergy.
What should I expect from the trial?
Dr. Irwin will select patients he thinks will benefit from this technology which will result in a high percentage of patients responding favorably to the trial process. A favorable response is a significant pain relief such that you would be able to gain function and life restoration from having an implantation.
Are there things I should look for after having this procedure?
Of course, you can call our office with any questions you might have. There are certain “red flag” warnings that you should call us about, or if it is after clinic hours you should go to your nearest ER. These would include severe or worsening pain, fever over 101, new or worsening weakness, injection site redness or drainage.