Implanted Spinal Cord Stimulator

Living with chronic pain can be an overwhelming experience for most individuals. Traditional pain management techniques, such as medications or physical therapy, may not always provide adequate relief. However, advancements in medical technology have given rise to a better solution: the implanted spinal cord stimulator (SCS). If you or your loved one are living with chronic pain, you may want to seek help from our Los Angeles back and neck pain doctors at LAMIS (Los Angeles Minimally Invasive Spine) Institute. We offer customized pain treatments including the implanted spinal cord stimulator, providing hope and improved quality of life to patients suffering from chronic pain.

Understanding the Implanted Spinal Cord Stimulator

Implanted spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is an innovative medical device designed to manage chronic pain by delivering electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. This approach aims to disrupt pain signals and provide relief for individuals who have not found adequate relief through traditional pain management techniques.

The SCS system consists of several components that work together to alleviate pain. These components include:

  • Generator — The generator is a small device that is implanted under the skin, typically in the abdomen or buttock region. It serves as the power source for the system and generates electrical pulses.
  • Leads — The leads are thin wires with electrodes attached to their tips. They are placed in the epidural space near the spinal cord during a surgical procedure. The leads carry the electrical impulses from the generator to the targeted areas of the spinal cord.
  • Handheld Programmer — The handheld programmer is a device that allows the patient or healthcare professional to adjust the settings of the SCS system. It enables the customization of stimulation parameters such as pulse rate, pulse width, and amplitude to optimize pain relief.

The functioning of the implanted spinal cord stimulator revolves around the concept of neuromodulation. When the system is activated, the generator delivers low-level electrical impulses through the leads and electrodes to the spinal cord. These electrical pulses interfere with the transmission of pain signals, effectively reducing the perception of pain. Instead of feeling pain, individuals may experience a mild tingling or buzzing sensation known as paresthesia in the area where the pain is located.

Chronic Pain Conditions That Can be Controlled through Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation has been proven to effectively manage various types of chronic pain. Here are some of the types of chronic pain that can be effectively managed through spinal cord stimulation therapy:

Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS). FBSS refers to persistent pain that continues after undergoing spinal surgery. Spinal cord stimulation can help alleviate pain in individuals who have not found relief through surgical interventions. By targeting the specific area of pain along the spinal cord, the therapy can provide significant relief and improve overall function.

Neuropathic Pain. This type of pain occurs due to damage or dysfunction in the nervous system. Conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), or diabetic neuropathy can cause debilitating neuropathic pain. Spinal cord stimulation therapy can effectively modulate abnormal nerve activity and reduce neuropathic pain sensations.

Radiculopathy. Radiculopathy refers to pain caused by compression or irritation of spinal nerve roots. Conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or sciatica can lead to radiating pain, numbness, or weakness. Spinal cord stimulation therapy can help manage radicular pain by targeting the specific spinal nerve roots involved, providing relief and improving function.

Arachnoiditis. Arachnoiditis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the arachnoid membrane surrounding the spinal cord. It can cause severe chronic pain and neurological symptoms. Spinal cord stimulation therapy can help alleviate pain and improve the quality of life for individuals with arachnoiditis, offering a viable treatment option.

Phantom Limb Pain. Phantom limb pain is experienced by individuals who have undergone amputation, where they feel pain in the missing limb. Spinal cord stimulation therapy has shown promising results in managing phantom limb pain by modulating the sensory pathways and reducing the perception of pain in the phantom limb.

Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is a chronic pain condition characterized by severe pain, swelling, and changes in skin temperature and color. Spinal cord stimulation therapy has been effective in managing CRPS symptoms by targeting the affected neural pathways and providing pain relief.

The suitability of spinal cord stimulation therapy for each individual depends on various factors, including the specific pain condition, medical history, and individual circumstances. A thorough evaluation by a pain management specialist is essential to determine if spinal cord stimulation therapy is a suitable option.

Who is an Excellent Candidate for Spinal Cord Stimulation Therapy

An excellent candidate for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) therapy is typically someone who meets certain criteria and has specific characteristics that make them suitable for this type of treatment. While individual assessments may vary, here are some general factors that indicate someone may be an excellent candidate for SCS therapy:

Chronic Pain. Candidates should have a documented history of chronic pain that has persisted for at least six months or longer. This pain may be related to conditions such as failed back surgery syndrome, neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), or other chronic pain conditions.

Failed Conservative Treatments. Individuals who have attempted and failed to find sufficient pain relief through conservative treatments, including medications, physical therapy, injections, or other interventions, may be considered excellent candidates for SCS therapy. SCS is often explored when other conventional approaches have proven ineffective or have resulted in undesirable side effects.

Positive Trial Period. Before permanent implantation, candidates undergo a trial period where temporary leads are placed near the spinal cord, and the effectiveness of SCS therapy is evaluated. Excellent candidates experience significant pain relief and improvements in functionality during the trial period, indicating that the therapy is likely to be beneficial in the long term.

Pain Localization. SCS therapy is most effective for pain that is localized or well-defined, rather than widespread pain. Candidates often have pain that can be attributed to specific nerves or regions of the body.

Medically Stable. Candidates should be in reasonably good overall health and medically stable to undergo the implantation procedure. This includes being free from active infections, blood clotting disorders, or other conditions that may pose a significant risk during the surgical procedure.

What to Expect Before, During, and After Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) surgery is a multi-step process that involves several stages before, during, and after the procedure. Here's a general overview of what to expect at each stage:

Before Surgery

Evaluation and Assessment

You will undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a pain management specialist to determine if you are a suitable candidate for SCS therapy. This may include a review of your medical history, physical examination, imaging tests, and psychological evaluation.

Trial Period

In most cases, a trial period using temporary SCS leads will be conducted before considering permanent implantation. During this trial, the temporary leads are placed near your spinal cord, and the stimulation is delivered to assess its effectiveness in relieving your pain. The trial period typically lasts for a few days to a couple of weeks.

Patient Education

You will receive detailed information about the SCS system, including how it works, potential benefits, risks, and the surgical procedure itself. Your healthcare team will answer any questions or concerns you may have and provide instructions on preoperative preparations, such as discontinuing certain medications or fasting before surgery.

During Surgery


You will be given anesthesia to ensure your comfort during the procedure. The type of anesthesia used can vary, ranging from local anesthesia to general anesthesia, depending on the specific details of your surgery.

Lead Placement

The surgeon will make small incisions to access the targeted area of your spine. The SCS leads will be placed near the spinal cord under the guidance of an X-ray or fluoroscopy. The leads are then connected to an external trial stimulator, allowing you to test the stimulation and assess its effectiveness.

Incision Closure

After lead placement, the incisions will be carefully closed using sutures or adhesive strips. The surgeon may also place a temporary dressing or bandage over the incision sites.

After Surgery

Recovery and Observation

You will be monitored in a recovery area to ensure your stability and comfort. This period may vary depending on the complexity of the surgery and your individual condition. Once you are stable, you will be moved to a hospital room or discharged home, depending on your surgeon's recommendations.

Follow-up Appointments

You will have regular follow-up appointments with your healthcare team to assess your progress, make any necessary adjustments to the stimulation settings, and address any concerns or questions you may have. These appointments are crucial for optimizing the effectiveness of the SCS system and ensuring your comfort.

Rehabilitation and Lifestyle Adjustments

Your healthcare team may provide recommendations for postoperative care, including physical therapy, exercises, and lifestyle modifications to support your recovery and optimize the benefits of SCS therapy.

Long-term Management

SCS therapy is a long-term commitment, and you will need to actively manage and maintain your system. This includes regular battery checks, programming adjustments, and potential replacement of the battery or generator as needed.

What are the Benefits of SCS Implant Placement Surgery

SCS (Spinal Cord Stimulation) implant placement surgery offers several benefits for individuals suffering from chronic pain. Here are some of the key advantages:

Pain Relief

The primary benefit of SCS implant placement surgery is the potential for significant pain relief. The implanted device delivers electrical impulses to the spinal cord, interfering with pain signals and providing relief for chronic pain conditions. It can effectively manage pain related to failed back surgery syndrome, neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and other similar conditions.

Improved Quality of Life

Effective pain management through SCS can greatly enhance an individual's quality of life. By reducing pain levels, SCS therapy enables individuals to engage in daily activities, enhance mobility, and participate in social and recreational pursuits that were previously limited by pain. Improved sleep, mood, and overall well-being are additional benefits that contribute to an improved quality of life.

Reduced Dependence on Medications

SCS therapy can help reduce reliance on pain medications, such as opioids, which often have significant side effects and can lead to dependency or addiction. By effectively managing pain through electrical stimulation, individuals may be able to reduce their medication intake, minimizing potential risks and improving overall health.

Non-Destructive Approach

Unlike some other surgical interventions, SCS implant placement surgery is considered non-destructive. It does not involve cutting or damaging nerves or other tissues. Instead, it utilizes electrical stimulation to modulate pain signals, making it a less invasive and reversible treatment option.

Personalized Pain Management

SCS therapy allows for personalized pain management. The device can be programmed and adjusted to meet individual needs, providing customized pain relief. It offers flexibility in terms of stimulation patterns, intensity, and areas of coverage, allowing healthcare providers to tailor the therapy to each patient's specific pain patterns and preferences.

Improved Functionality

By effectively managing pain, SCS therapy can improve an individual's functionality. It enables them to regain or enhance their ability to perform daily activities, maintain employment, and engage in hobbies and recreational pursuits. This increased functionality leads to greater independence and a more active lifestyle.

Reversible Treatment

SCS implant placement surgery is reversible, providing individuals with the option to discontinue or remove the device if necessary. This flexibility allows for a trial period to assess the effectiveness of the therapy before committing to permanent implantation. If it does not meet expectations or circumstances change, the device can be removed through a surgical procedure.

Risks Associated with SCS Implant Placement Surgery

While Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) implant placement surgery is generally considered safe and effective, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and considerations involved. These can include:

Surgical Risks

As with any surgery, there are inherent risks involved, such as bleeding, infection, and adverse reactions to anesthesia. However, these risks are generally low, and the procedure is considered safe when performed by experienced surgeons.

Device-related Risks

The implanted SCS device may have its own risks. This can include issues such as lead migration, device malfunction, hardware failure, or infection around the implanted components. Regular follow-up appointments with the healthcare provider are necessary to monitor the device's functioning and address any potential complications.

Failed Trial Period

Prior to permanent implantation, a trial period is typically conducted to assess the effectiveness of SCS therapy. In some cases, the trial may not provide sufficient pain relief, indicating that the therapy may not be suitable or effective for the individual.

Find a Pain Relief Doctor Near Me

If you are looking for a solution to your chronic pain, exploring the option of implanted spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can be a worthwhile consideration. At LAMIS (Los Angeles Minimally Invasive Spine) Institute, we understand the challenges of living with chronic pain and are dedicated to helping patients find effective relief. Our Los Angeles pain relief doctors offer Implanted Spinal Cord Stimulator that utilizes advanced technology and personalized treatment plans to address your specific pain needs. Contact us today at 310-734-6088.

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