A spinal cord stimulator implant is a procedure that involves an implantable device that is placed on the spinal cord and sends electrical signals to the spinal cord to reduce pain. If you are looking for a minimally invasive procedure that can help manage chronic pain, a spinal cord stimulator implant may be an option. Dr. George Rappard is a renowned neuro-interventional surgeon with great experience in spinal cord stimulation implantation and has helped thousands of patients in Los Angeles live pain-free and active lifestyles.
What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?
A spinal cord stimulator is a type of medical device used to provide relief from chronic pain. It works by applying electrical pulses to the spinal cord, which can help to reduce or even eliminate pain. The stimulator is implanted in the patient’s body and connected to a device that sends electrical pulses.
The spinal cord is a bundle of nerves that runs from the brain to the lower back. It is responsible for transmitting signals between the body and the brain. When a person experiences chronic pain, it is often due to a disruption in the transmission of these signals. By providing electrical stimulation to the spinal cord, the stimulator can help to reduce or even eliminate the pain.
The spinal cord stimulator is implanted surgically. During the procedure, the surgeon makes an incision in the patient’s back and then inserts the stimulator. The device is then connected to a small generator, which is placed under the skin. This generator is programmed to deliver electrical pulses to the spinal cord and can be adjusted to deliver the desired stimulation.
The effects of spinal cord stimulation can vary from person to person. Some people experience a significant reduction in pain, while others may not experience any relief. It is important to note that spinal cord stimulation is not a cure for chronic pain, and it may not be an appropriate treatment for everyone.
The risks associated with spinal cord stimulation are similar to those of any medical procedure. These include infection, bleeding, and nerve damage. In some cases, the device may need to be adjusted or even removed if it is not providing the desired results.
What Conditions are Treated or Managed by Spinal Cord Stimulation?
A spinal cord stimulator implant uses a small electrical device that is surgically implanted in the body near the spinal cord. The device sends electrical pulses to the spinal cord, which blocks pain signals from reaching the brain. This helps to reduce the intensity of the pain and improve the patient's quality of life.
The most common conditions that can be treated or managed using this method include
- Chronic low back or leg pain — This method can be used to treat chronic low back and leg pain, such as sciatica, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disorder. It can also be used to treat pain caused by failed back surgery syndrome.
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) — The method can provide relief from the chronic burning, stabbing, and aching pain associated with CRPS.
- Neuropathy — A spinal cord stimulator implant can help reduce the burning and numbness caused by neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage.
- Phantom limb pain — It can also provide relief from the burning and aching pain associated with a missing limb, such as an amputation.
- Vascular and ischemic pain — The treatment can help reduce the burning and aching pain associated with poor circulation and reduced blood flow.
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) — It can also help reduce the burning and aching pain associated with RSD, which is a type of nerve damage.
- Spinal cord injury — Spinal cord stimulator implants can help reduce the spasticity, pain, and other symptoms associated with spinal cord injury.
In addition to the conditions listed above, this treatment method can also be used to treat certain types of headaches, fibromyalgia, shingles, and other chronic pain syndromes.
While this is a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain syndromes, it is important to note that it does not cure the underlying condition. Instead, it manages pain symptoms and improves the patient's quality of life. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before deciding if it is the right treatment for you.
The Benefits of Spinal Cord Stimulation
The primary benefit of a spinal cord stimulator implant is that it is non-invasive. Unlike other treatments, such as surgery, it does not require any incisions or major surgical procedures. Instead, a small device is implanted under the skin near the spine and connected to an external controller that is used to adjust the settings. This device can send electrical impulses to the spinal cord, which can help to block pain signals from reaching the brain.
Another benefit is that it can be tailored to the individual’s needs. The doctor can adjust the settings of the device to meet the patient’s specific needs. This means that the patient can receive the proper amount of stimulation for their needs, and the doctor can adjust the settings to ensure that the patient is receiving the correct amount of stimulation.
In addition to providing pain relief, it can also help patients regain their mobility. By blocking pain signals from reaching the brain, the treatment can help to reduce muscle spasms and make it easier for the patient to move. This can help to improve a patient’s quality of life and reduce their reliance on pain medications.
A spinal cord stimulator implant can also help to reduce the risk of opioid addiction. Because this treatment helps to reduce the need for pain medications, patients can avoid the risk of becoming addicted to opioids. This can be especially important for patients who are already struggling with opioid addiction.
Another benefit is that it can help reduce pain signals from reaching the brain. Delivering electrical pulses directly to the spinal cord blocks pain signals from reaching the brain and helps reduce the perception of pain.
In addition, it can also help reduce healthcare costs. Studies have shown that this treatment can reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits, which can lead to reduced healthcare costs. Furthermore, it is a safe, non-invasive procedure, so there are no additional costs associated with the procedure itself.
A spinal cord stimulator implant is a valuable treatment option for those suffering from chronic neuropathic pain. However, it is not a one-size-fits-all treatment, and patients should consider a variety of pre-implantation factors before undergoing the procedure.
First, it is important to determine if this is an appropriate treatment for the patient’s condition. A spinal cord stimulator implant is indicated for patients who suffer from chronic neuropathic pain, such as failed back syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, and diabetic neuropathy. It is not recommended for patients who are pregnant, those with an infection, or those with an active inflammatory process.
Second, it is important to consider the potential risks and complications associated with the treatment. As with any surgical procedure, there is a risk of infection, nerve damage, hematoma formation, and device malfunction. It is also important to note that it does not provide a cure for pain, and the procedure may not provide complete pain relief.
Third, patients should consider their lifestyle and activity level when deciding if this is the right treatment for them. Patients who are more active or lead an active lifestyle may need to modify their activities following the procedure. Additionally, patients should be aware that this treatment does not have an immediate effect, and it may take several weeks or months before the full benefits are realized.
Finally, patients should discuss the various types of spinal cord stimulator implants with their doctor. The traditional method requires an external stimulator device, while newer forms, such as dorsal root ganglion stimulation and sacral nerve stimulation, do not require an external device. Each type has its own set of benefits and risks, and it is important to discuss these with the doctor before making a decision.
The Implantation Process
The implantation process consists of several steps. The first step is to create a customized plan of treatment for the patient, taking into consideration the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, and lifestyle. This plan includes the type and size of the device, the number of electrodes, the placement of the device, and any additional medications or treatments the patient may need.
Once the plan is created, the patient will be scheduled for an implantation procedure. During this procedure, the patient is placed under general anesthesia. The surgeon then makes a small incision in the lower back area and carefully inserts the IPG into the area near the spinal cord. The surgeon then connects the electrodes to the device and tests the system to make sure it is functioning correctly. The implantation process can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the complexity of the procedure and the patient’s individual needs.
After the implantation is complete, the patient may need to stay in the hospital for a few days for monitoring and pain relief. Once the implantation is complete, the patient will need to learn how to use the device. This includes understanding the settings and how to adjust them based on the patient’s pain levels. The patient will also need to learn how to monitor the device and report any changes in pain or other symptoms to the doctor.
The implantation process is a complex procedure, but it can be a successful treatment for those suffering from chronic pain. The device can provide relief from pain and reduce the need for medications or other treatments. Patients will need to be monitored closely after the implantation procedure to ensure that the device is working correctly and providing the desired results.
The Recovery and Post-Implant Care Processes
The recovery and post-implant care processes are relatively straightforward and can be completed relatively quickly. After the implantation surgery, patients typically experience some soreness and discomfort in the area where the device was placed. This discomfort can usually be managed with over-the-counter pain medications.
Patients should also be aware of the potential risks associated with spinal cord stimulator implants. These can include infection, bleeding, nerve damage, and even internal organ damage. As such, it is important to closely follow your doctor’s instructions for post-implant care.
One important aspect of post-implant care is controlling the frequency and intensity of the electrical stimulation. Your doctor will likely set the device to a low level of stimulation initially and then increase it over time. This process helps to reduce the potential for nerve damage and is important for achieving the best possible results with the device.
Another important aspect of post-implant care is monitoring the device. Your doctor will likely schedule follow-up visits to check the device and ensure it functions properly. During these visits, your doctor may also adjust the frequency and intensity of the electrical stimulation to ensure that it is providing the most benefit.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that the effects are not permanent. The device can provide temporary relief from pain but it is not a cure for any underlying condition. As such, it is important to talk to your doctor about additional treatment options such as physical therapy, medications, or other forms of pain management.
The Risks and Side Effects of Spinal Cord Stimulators
Although it is considered a safe and effective treatment option for many people with chronic pain, there are some risks and potential side effects associated with it.
The most common side effects of spinal cord stimulation are temporary numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation around the area where the device is implanted. Other side effects may include skin irritation, infection, and a feeling of pressure around the implant site. In some cases, the device may malfunction or become dislodged, causing pain or tissue damage.
In addition to the potential side effects mentioned above, there are some risks associated with it. The most serious risk is a potentially fatal infection called meningitis. This is a rare but serious complication that can occur if the device is implanted improperly. Other risks include bleeding, nerve damage, and damage to the spinal cord or surrounding tissues.
It is important to discuss all potential risks and side effects with your doctor before deciding whether or not to proceed with spinal cord stimulation. Your doctor will be able to assess your situation and determine whether the benefits of the device outweigh the risks.
In some cases, people may experience temporary or permanent nerve damage as a result of spinal cord stimulation. This is usually due to incorrect placement of the device or poor stimulation settings. In rare cases, the device may cause a stroke or other serious neurological damage. If this occurs, the implant may need to be removed to prevent further damage.
If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain and have failed to find relief with traditional treatments, a spinal cord stimulator implant may be an option. Dr. George Rappard has extensive experience in performing spinal cord stimulator implants and has successfully performed numerous implants. He works closely with his patients to ensure their pain is relieved and they can live normal lives. Call today at 424-777-7463 to book an appointment or visit our clinic in Los Angeles.