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Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant

What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Implant? 

A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) implant is a medical device used to treat chronic, neuropathic pain in the back, arms, and legs. The SCS system works by delivering low-voltage electrical impulses to the spinal cord, which helps block pain signals from reaching the brain, providing relief for patients whose pain has not responded well to other conservative treatments. 

How is a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Implant Performed? 

The spinal cord stimulator implant procedure typically involves a trial implantation before the permanent implantation can be performed: 

Trial Implantation: 

  1. 1. The injection site is numbed with a local anesthetic. One or more insulated wire leads are inserted through a needle or small incision into the space surrounding the spinal cord (epidural space). 
  2. 2. Electrodes on the leads produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerves, potentially blocking pain signals. 
  3. 3. The patient provides feedback to help the physician determine the optimal placement of the stimulators to best target the patient’s pain. 
  4. 4. The leads are connected to an external trial stimulator, which the patient will use for approximately one week to evaluate the effectiveness of the SCS therapy. 

Permanent Implantation: 

  1. 1. If the patient and physician determine the trial was successful, the permanent SCS system is implanted. 
  2. 2. Under sedation or general anesthesia, one or more permanent leads are inserted into the predetermined location in the epidural space. 
  3. 3. A small incision is made, and the implantable pulse generator (IPG) battery is positioned beneath the skin, typically in the buttocks or abdomen. 
  4. 4. The leads are then connected to the IPG battery. 
  5. 5. The electrical pulses from the SCS system are programmed using an external wireless controller. 

What Supplies and Medications are Used for a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Implant? 

The key components for a spinal cord stimulator implant include: 

  • – Local anesthetic (e.g. lidocaine) to numb the injection/incision sites 
  • – Spinal cord stimulator leads and electrodes 
  • – Implantable pulse generator (IPG) battery 
  • – Fluoroscopic imaging equipment to guide lead placement 
  • – External trial stimulator and wireless programmer 

The physician selects the appropriate SCS system and techniques based on the patient’s individual anatomy and pain condition. 

What to Expect After a Spinal Cord Stimulator (SCS) Implant? 

After the permanent SCS implantation, patients may experience mild discomfort and swelling at the incision sites for several days. Over time, as the incisions heal, these symptoms should resolve. 

Patients will work closely with their physician to optimize the programming of the SCS system to provide the best possible pain relief. This may involve adjusting the intensity and location of the electrical stimulation. Patients can use the external wireless controller to turn the system on/off and make minor adjustments as needed. 

With proper care and programming, the spinal cord stimulator can provide long-term relief from chronic, neuropathic pain in the back, arms, and legs. Patients should follow their physician’s instructions regarding activity levels and any necessary follow-up appointments.

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