Spinal Cord Stimulation

In spinal cord stimulation (SCS), mild electric currents applied to the spinal cord through small medical devices modulate pain signals and at some settings replace the pain sensation with a mild tingling known as paraesthesia. Spinal cord stimulation involves placing a series of electrical contacts in the epidural space in the spine near the region that supplies nerves to the painful area. The procedure is a minimally invasive ambulatory surgical technique. Usually, a patient will try a temporary externalized SCS system, and if pain is reduced by at least 50%, the patient returns to receive an implanted system.

Since the development of SCS in the 1960s, the field has advanced rapidly. Power capacity has increased, electronic controls have become more compact, and a greater number of painful conditions can be treated with SCS. In more than half the patients who try the therapy, SCS effectively relieves neuropathic pain of the peripheral nervous system. 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 and metabolic and viral neuropathies. Among its other medical applications, SCS is also used in chronic critical limb ischemia, angina pectoris, chronic pancreatitis, chronic painful bladder syndrome, and chronic abdominal pain.


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Around the world some 34,000 patients undergo spinal cord stimulator implants each year. First used to treat pain in 1967, spinal cord stimulation . . .


Reviewed April 3, 2012
Lawrence Poree, MD, PhD
Member, International Neuromodulation Society
Professor, University of California School of Medicine, Department of Anesthesia, San Francisco CA, USA

Last Updated on Tuesday, August 01, 2017 10:10 AM