What is a spinal cord stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a device that is implanted into the spine to relieve chronic pain.

How does a spinal cord stimulator work?

Using electrodes, the spinal cord stimulator delivers electric pulses into the epidural space where the affected nerves attach to the spinal cord. The electric pulses intercept the pain impulses and modify the signal to the brain to reduce pain. A small battery is implanted in the hip/buttock area to power the electrodes.

Who can benefit from the procedure?

Spinal cord stimulation may be an effective option for patients who experience chronic pain but who have not benefited from other non-surgical treatment methods. Ideal candidates include those with radicular or neuropathic pain resulting from injury to a nerve or nerve root, amputees with phantom pain, and patients with Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

To find out if you can benefit from a spinal cord stimulator, contact an experienced pain management doctor like those at Southside Pain Specialists. We can meet with you to discuss your pain, perform a series of diagnostic tests and imaging to identify the source of pain, and establish a personalized treatment plan. Give us a call at (205) 332-3155 to learn more about spinal cord stimulation, or become a new patient by having your primary care physician complete our referral form.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Procedure

There are two parts to the spinal cord stimulator procedure: trial and permanent implant. The trial period is totally reversible, lasting between three to seven days. During an outpatient procedure, your surgeon will implant the stimulator device. You will then resume your daily activities and monitor your pain levels. At Southside Pain Specialists, we generally require a 50% reduction in pain during the trial period to proceed with the permanent implant.

If spinal cord stimulation successfully reduced your level of pain during the trial period, you can undergo another outpatient procedure to have the device permanently implanted. Patients can go home immediately following the procedure but must refrain from bending, lifting, or twisting for 6-8 weeks. We will provide you with a back brace to assist in immobilization.

At Southside Pain Specialists, spinal cord stimulation is one of our most commonly performed procedures. Schedule a consultation using the form below to determine if this procedure is right for you.

Steps of Spinal Stimulation

  1. Psychological clearance is required for all spinal cord stimulator trials. This can be done at any psychologist’s office that offers an “MMPI2” test. Please check with your insurance company to be aware if this visit is not covered. This consists of a verbal and written exam and typically can cost around $250 out-of-pocket.
  2. Prior authorization from your insurance company for the trial is required. This process can take up to 30 days as stated by most insurance companies. We will submit the prior authorization within 24 hours of receipt of your psychological clearance approval, so be sure to have your psychologist send us the results to our fax at 866-644-8086 or by email to [email protected] as soon as possible.
  3. Once we receive approval from your insurance company, we are able to schedule you for the trial. Your insurance company will determine the location you will have your procedure performed at, so available times for your procedure will vary depending on this information. Please call us at 205-202-5708 or email [email protected] to schedule.
  4. A trial lasts 3-7 days and is an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home the same day. You can resume normal activity for the week with the absence of showering or getting the site wet. During this time, you will assess the amount of pain relief you experience. Generally we will not move forward with a permanent implant unless you receive at least 50% pain relief. This percentage of relief will be assessed at our office at your suture removal appointment which occurs within the week following the trial. At this appointment we will also remove the leads. This is done without sedation and is typically a quick and easy appointment.

  1. Using the benefit assessment from the suture removal appointment, we will submit a prior authorization for your permanent implant if you received at least 50% pain relief. Again, this process can take up to 30 days as stated by most insurance companies.
  2. Once approval is received for your permanent implant, we can schedule your procedure. Your insurance company will determine the location you will have your procedure performed at, so available times for your procedure will vary depending on this information. Please call us at 205-202-5708 or email [email protected] to schedule.
  3. One week after the procedure you will need to come back for a staple removal appointment. This appointment is necessary to take your staples out so your incision can heal properly. After this appointment the process is completed!

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