A spinal cord stimulator is an implanted device that sends low levels of electricity to the spinal cord to relieve pain. Spinal cord stimulation is usually performed after nonsurgical pain treatment fails. Spinal cord stimulation can improve the overall quality of life and sleep, as well as reduce the need for pain medicine.
Spinal cord stimulators consist of thin wires – the electrodes – and a small pacemaker-like battery pack – the generator. During the procedure, a physician will place the electrode between the spinal cord and the vertebrae, and the generator under the skin near the buttocks or abdomen. The system allows patients to send electrical impulses using a remote control whenever pain is experienced.
Spinal cord stimulators are effective in treating many types of chronic pain, including:
Back pain, especially back pain that persists after surgery
Injuries to the spinal cord
Peripheral vascular disease
Complex regional pain syndrome
Pain after an amputation
Visceral abdominal pain
Spinal cord stimulation is performed most commonly to treat patients suffering from failed back surgery syndrome (33%), complex regional pain syndrome type I (45%), complex regional pain syndrome type II (4%), neuropathy (10%), visceral pain (5%), and peripheral vascular disease (3%).