Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a treatment option for some pain patients.  SCS involves implanting a device into the patient’s body that produces electrical impulses that block pain messages from being perceived in the brain.  Instead of pain, the patient feels mild tingling sensations.  The success of spinal cord stimulation depends on (1) careful patient selection and (2) a successful SCS trial.

When SCS may be recommended

Careful patient selection is important, as SCS is not appropriate for every patient.

In general, a patient may be considered for this therapy if:

  • Non-operative treatments do not adequately relieve pain.
  • Surgery is not an option.
  • Surgery is not expected to improve pain.
  • Previous surgery did not improve pain.

About SCS devices

Different companies manufacture spinal cord stimulators.  The spinal cord stimulation system includes a battery-powered generator, leads and remote control.  The generator is surgically implanted into the abdominal or upper buttock area.  The thin leads are surgically implanted into the spinal canal and connected to the generator.

  • Recharging the generator is easy.  A special belted pocket holds the recharger over the skin area near the implanted generator.
  • Your SCS is programmed to deliver the right amount of pain relief.
  • The remote control enables you to turn impulses on, off, or adjust their intensity.
  • The latest stimulators can automatically adjust stimulation to each patient’s optimal setting.

As mentioned, there are different types of spinal cord stimulators. Doctor Jose Colon, MD will help you determine which system is best for you based on your condition and lifestyle.

Potential risks, complications

Any medical procedure involves potential risks and possible complications.  Complications include risk of infection, bleeding, headache, and allergic reaction.  Our doctors thoroughly review your potential for risk or complication.

SCS trial period

To make sure a spinal cord stimulator is right for you, our doctors provide a temporary stimulator (generator) that is secured outside your body.  The generator is attached to leads inserted into your spinal canal.  The trial period is usually a few days or longer, as determined by Dr. Colon.  During the trial, you evaluate how well the system manages your pain.  A good result is often measured as 50% to 70% pain reduction.

If the trial outcome is good …

If the spinal cord stimulation trial outcome is good, and you and Dr. Colon agree, the next step is to schedule the outpatient surgery for permanent implantation of the system.  Although the spinal cord stimulator and leads are permanently implanted, they can be removed (reversible) if necessary.

  • The generator is implanted into your abdominal or upper buttock area; depending on which area is most comfortable.
  • Thin leads are inserted and secured inside the spinal canal.
  • Dr. Colon programs your spinal cord stimulator
  • Learning about your spinal cord stimulator and its use is easy.  You are provided helpful information to refer to at home.

When you wake up from surgery, you find you are wearing an elastic brace.  The brace is worn temporarily to help reduce swelling and speed healing.

You are discharged home when either of our doctors determine you are ready with complete written instructions.  We schedule your follow-up appointment date and time at Rehabilitation Medicine Center of New Jersey.