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Pain is usually managed with non-surgical methods such as oral medications, injections and nerve blocks. When these options fail and severe pain turns into a chronic condition, spinal cord stimulation may be the next step for you. After this procedure, patients feel a tingling sensation in place of their pain.
What is spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a type of neuromodulation, which is a surgical procedure that implants electrodes in the body to change how the nervous system works. Spinal cord stimulation involves placing the electrodes on the spinal cord to control pain signals. It is a minimally invasive procedure, requiring a small incision over the targeted area.
Am I a candidate for spinal cord stimulation for pain management?
If medications and other therapies fail to treat your pain symptoms, your doctor considers surgical options. You may also be a candidate for spinal cord stimulation if you experience:
- Chronic pain in the neck, back, arms or legs
- Failed back surgery syndrome
- Complex regional pain syndrome
What happens during spinal cord stimulation surgery?
Patients are awake during spinal cord stimulation surgery so we can test the electrodes and make sure they are in the right place. A local anesthetic is used. The procedure happens in two stages:
- Stage 1: Using X-ray guidance, your neurosurgeon places an electrode over the targeted spot on the spinal cord. The device is tested so the patient can tell us if they feel the stimulation in the correct place on the arm, leg or torso. Patients try out the stimulation for about a week to make sure spinal cord stimulation is right for them.
- Stage 2: If patients like the results after one week, they return to the operating room for a permanent implant.
What to expect after spinal cord stimulation for pain relief
- It may take several visits to your doctor's office to optimize the device to achieve maximum comfort.
- Spinal cord stimulation surgery significantly reduces pain in up to 80 percent of patients
Interested in spinal cord stimulation at UCLA? Get prepared for your first appointment.