Procedures

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Spinal Cord Stimulation (Neuromodulation)

What is Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Spinal Cord Stimulation (sometimes called Dorsal Column Stimulation or Neuromodulation) is a technique in which the complex mechanisms by which pain signals are transmitted through the spinal cord are altered.

What is the purpose of Spinal Cord Stimulation?

Very low-dose electrical currents are used in specific patterns in order to change the way pain is perceived. This technique has been in use around the world for approximately the last 40 years. It involves introducing electrodes into the epidural space and stimulating them so that the patient experiences a reduction in pain.

How are patients selected?

Selecting this technique depends on the type of patient and the type of pain that occurs. A trial period is undertaken over 7 to 10 days. During this period the patient will keep a diary of their pain intensity and most importantly any improvement in function that they experience. If the trial is considered a success a permanent system is implanted a number of weeks later. A technical representative of whichever company supplies the device undertakes programming of the system.

How is Spinal Cord Stimulation performed?

The procedure is a surgical one and carried out in the operating room under x-ray control, lots of local anaesthetic and a little sedation. During the procedure the patient will be asked about the stimulation that they feel. This will allow precise placement of the stimulating electrodes. For a permanent system the power cell known as the implanted pulse generator is placed under the skin either in the lower part of the back/upper buttock or in the abdominal wall.

What does the patient experience?

Many patients who have had this procedure report that they feel the stimulus as a blanket, glove or sleeve of pleasant pins and needles in the area of their pain.

What happens after the procedure?

In the early post-operative stage the system will require programming so that the patient experiences the maximum relief of pain. This may require a number of sessions. The representative from the company will educate patient on how to use the system what programs are involved and how it is recharged.

Where can I get more information?

The Pain Specialists at Pain Matrix will have a very detailed discussion with the patient prior to consideration of this technique and patients are provided with resources including DVDs to give further information. It is generally a very small number of patients will benefit from this technique and therefore selection is of utmost importance.

Please make sure you have made follow-up arrangements with your Pain Specialist (either by phone or an in-person appointment)