What Is a Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a medical device that delivers a mild electric charge to the spinal nerves. It can be used anywhere in the spinal column. The stimulator will work by modifying or blocking the pain signals from the spine to the brain, also known as neuropathic pain.

In most cases, a trial stimulator is used. A small, removable paddle is placed into the epidural space next to the nerve roots in the spine. The trial period typically lasts a week, during which it is important to document the improvement you have had in a pain diary. For patients who respond well with a trial implant, a permanent implant may provide long-lasting benefit.

A small hole in the vertebra is made, also known as a laminotomy, and wires for the stimulator are passed to the area of the spine where they will be the most effective. The stimulator is securely attached to the spine so it does not move.

A spinal cord stimulator is usually only an option for patients when other surgical and nonsurgical options have failed. It is important to undergo a thorough examination and trial period to learn if you would be a good candidate for a permanent device.

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