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Interventional Pain Management

Spinal Cord and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators

A spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulator is an implantable medical device used in pain management services. If your acute or chronic pain condition isn’t responding to other forms of treatment, your interventional pain management physician may prescribe a spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulator. The pain management physician at our interventional pain management center can help determine if stimulation is the right treatment for you. Individual results may vary, but most patients find that this form of treatment makes their pain more manageable and allows them to gain the pain relief they need to return to a more active life.

How Spinal Cord and Peripheral Nerve Stimulation is used to Treat Pain
Spinal cord stimulators send mild electrical impulses to the epidural space near the spine. These impulses alter the perception of pain by replacing pain with a tingling sensation. Patients who seek spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation for pain management will first undergo a trial period for about seven days. If the patient and pain management physician determine that this form of treatment is effective, then a permanent procedure will be pursued.

  • Temporary Stimulation Procedure: To initiate the trial period, a temporary procedure will be administered. The injection site will be anesthetized and one or more insulated wire leads will be inserted through an epidural needle or through a small incision in the epidural space. Electrodes at the end of the lead produce electrical pulses that stimulate the nerve blocking pain signals. Once proper positioning is attained, the lead is connected to an external trial stimulator, which will be used for approximately one week.
  • Permanent Stimulation Procedure: If proven effective in providing acute or chronic pain relief, the system may be permanently implanted. A small incision is made to allow permanent leads to be positioned within a predetermined space and an implantable pulse generator battery is positioned beneath the skin – often in the buttocks or abdomen. The permanent lead is connected to the battery. An external control unit allows the patient to program electrical impulses, turn the system on or off, adjust the stimulation power level, or switch between programs.

Due to the magnets used in spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulators, there are a few precautions to keep in mind. If you undergo this advanced form of treatment, you will be advised to avoid physically demanding activities and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) devices. Those travelling in an airport may be required to carry an authorized note explaining the implant so they can get through security and board a plane. Also, it is recommended that patients turn off their system before they enter or exit retail stores with certain security systems, as they can alter stimulation levels. To see if you are a good candidate for spinal cord or peripheral nerve stimulation treatment services, contact the physicians at our interventional pain management center.