Despite best efforts to relieve individuals of pain either through conservative or surgical measures, some patients experience chronic pain. A spinal cord stimulator is permanently implanted in the spinal canal to provide pain relief. This procedure attempts to convert the painful sensation to a tingling sensation, which the brain perceives as more desirable. Small leads with multiple electrodes are positioned over the spinal cord. There are several designs of spinal cord stimulation devices.
A spinal cord stimulator differs from traditional surgery in several ways. The spinal cord stimulator does not change the underlying condition; it simply changes the brain’s perception of pain. There are two parts to the surgery. There is a trial phase in which the leads are placed and connected to an external power supply. You will go home for several days to weeks and see how well the device controls your pain. If this is successful, a permanent system will be implanted. If the trial is not successful, an attempt at a second trial with a spinal cord stimulator may be undertaken. If it also fails, the leads will be removed permanently.
Conditions Treated with Spinal Cord Stimulation
Decompression surgery is performed for the treatment of stenosis, radicular pain, spondylosis or other conditions associated with nerve compression.
What to Expect Before Spinal Cord Stimulation
Once you have decided to have neck pain surgery, the following events take place:
A medical examination.
Chest X-ray, EKG and blood work.
You may be asked to have a neurological or psychological examination.
If taking aspirin or anti-inflammatory medications daily, stop these medications at least one week before surgery.
If you take prescription medications or other drugs, including herbals, ask your doctor how soon you should stop taking these before neck pain surgery.
Do not have anything to eat or drink for 6 to 8 hours before surgery.
You will check into the hospital the morning of decompression surgery.
Prior to surgery, you will be asked to sign permits for surgery, anesthesia, blood and blood products.
What to Expect During Spinal Cord Stimulation
An incision is made in the low back area (or in the back of the neck if cervical surgery).
Fluoroscopy, a method used to make images, is used to determine the correct level(s) to be operated.
The tissue, most commonly bone and ligament, that is compressing on the nerve(s) is removed.
Sometimes fusion is performed after the decompression to stabilize the operated area.
Surgery takes approximately 1-4 hours.
What to Expect After Spinal Cord Stimulation
You will be in the recovery room from 1 to 1½ hours.
The surgeon will contact your family while you are in recovery.
After going to a hospital room, you will be able to use a PCA pump to get medication for pain control. This machine controls the amount of medication that can be received.
Staff will usually get you out of bed the same day as the surgery.
The hospital stay is usually 1-3 days.
A brace or corset may be prescribed to restrict bending.
You will be given any needed prescriptions and discharge instructions.
A set of exercises that you can do at home will be provided.
You will be able to ride in a car or plane upon leaving the hospital.
Physical therapy is usually initiated after the first office visit with your doctor following surgery.
ecovery from discectomy is usually relatively brief, but it varies greatly among patients and is dependent on the age and health of the individual. Return to work also varies greatly among patients and is related to overall health and the type of work you do.