Long-term (chronic) back pain, with or without arm or leg pain
Nerve pain or numbness in the arms or legs
Swelling (inflammation) of the lining of the brain and spinal cord
SCS is used after you have tried other treatments such as medication and exercise and they have not worked.
Risks of surgery are:
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage
Damage to the nerves that come out of the spine, causing paralysis, weakness, or pain that does not go away
Infection of the battery or electrode site (if this occurs, the hardware usually needs to be removed)
Movement of or damage to the generator or leads that requires more surgery
Pain after surgery
Problems with how the stimulator works, such as sending too strong of a signal, stopping and starting, or sending a weak signal
The SCS device may interfere with other devices, such as pacemakers and defibrillators. After the SCS is implanted, you may not be able to get an MRI anymore (discuss this with your health care provider).
Before the Procedure
Tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the days before the surgery:
Prepare your home for when you come back from the hospital.
If you are a smoker, you need to stop smoking. Your recovery will be slower and possibly not as good if you keep smoking. Ask your doctor for help quitting.
Two weeks before surgery, you may be asked to stop taking drugs that make it harder for your blood to clot. These include aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), and other drugs like these.
If you have diabetes, heart disease, or other medical problems, your surgeon will ask you to see your regular doctor.
Talk with your doctor if you have been drinking a lot of alcohol.
Ask your doctor which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
Always let your doctor know about any illnesses you may have.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to arrive at the hospital.
On the day of the surgery:
You will usually be asked not to drink or eat anything for 6 to 12 hours before the procedure.
Take the drugs your doctor told you to take with a small sip of water.
Bring your cane, walker, or wheelchair if you have one already. Also bring shoes with flat, nonskid soles.
After the Procedure
After the permanent generator is placed, the surgical cut will be closed and covered with a dressing. You will be taken to the recovery room to wake up from the anesthesia.
Most people can go home the same day, but your doctor may want you to stay overnight in the hospital. You will be taught how to care for your surgical site.
You should avoid heavy lifting, bending, and twisting while you are healing. Light exercise such as walking can be helpful during recovery.
Patients who have this procedure may have less back pain and need to take fewer pain medications. However, the treatment does not completely cure back pain or treat the source of the pain.
Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.