Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy in New York
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is non-medicinal way to treat chronic pain.
Similar to pacemaker technology, SCS uses electrical signals rather than
traditional medication to treat pain. It works by delivering electrical
pulses to the spinal cord to mask or interrupt the transmission of abnormal
pain signals to the brain. The pulses are sent by small electrodes placed
near the spinal cord that connect to a compact, battery-powered pulse
generator, which is implanted under the skin.
This type of neurostimulation is a potential option for patients with chronic
pain who continue to suffer despite having had medications,
physical therapy, injections, and even surgery. SCS targets areas of pain, and typically
creates a more pleasant tingling feeling (called paresthesia) in those
areas. Recent SCS devices reduce or eliminate paresthesia, and simply
provide pain relief with little or none of the other sensations.
What kinds of conditions does spinal cord stimulation treat?
In more than half the patients who try the therapy, SCS effectively relieves
neuropathic pain (pain arising from nerve damage due to injury or illness).
Typical cases include:
- pain after nerve root injury in spinal disorders (commonly known as failed
back surgery syndrome, or FBSS)
- post-amputation pain
- other traumatic neuropathies
- complex regional pain syndrome
- metabolic and viral neuropathies
Among its other medical applications, SCS has also been used in patients
with chronic critical limb ischemia, angina pectoris, chronic pancreatitis,
chronic painful bladder syndrome, and chronic abdominal pain. In addition,
there has been promising research into epidural spinal cord stimulation
reversing partial spinal cord injury.
Patients who are considered good candidates for spinal cord stimulation
can try out the treatment on a temporary basis first before having the
generator implanted. After identifying the best locations to apply the
electrical impulses, the pain specialist uses x-ray guidance to thread
the leads (wires) to the target areas. The leads are connected to a generator
that is outside the patient’s body, operated with a remote control.
The external generator is then programmed to reach the proper level of
relief, and over the next few days or weeks the patient can adjust the
device as needed. If the stimulator is effective at relieving pain and
improving quality of life, the patient may choose to have the generator
implanted (usually in a “pocket” under the skin of the buttock)
for permanent pain management. The patient continues to manage the level
of stimulation using the remote control. The procedure is considered permanent,
but it is reversible: The implanted stimulator can be turned off or surgically
removed at any time.
Both procedures, to implant the leads for the trial and to implant the
generator, are often done as outpatient procedures or with very brief
hospital stays. Complete recovery from the surgical procedure can be from
four to six weeks.
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