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Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial and Implantation

What is Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial and Implantation?

Spinal cord stimulation is a cutting-edge treatment that blocks pain signals from the nerves in the spine to the brain. Patients undergo a trial period first to determine if the minimally invasive treatment is an effective option to improve the patient’s functionality and decrease the need for pain medication.

The treatment is used for a range of conditions, including chronic neck or back pain, chronic regional pain syndrome, failed back surgery syndrome, arachnoiditis, peripheral neuropathy, radicular pain syndrome and radiculopathies, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Technological advances have made the battery-powered generators that are implanted smaller, and some models are now safe to be used with MRI. Controlled sensors automatically adjust to body movement, and generator life is longer.

What to expect during a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial and Implantation

The spinal cord stimulator trial, which lasts about a week, involves stimulation through thin wires inserted into the body and controlled by an external transmitter. The trial procedure usually takes about 30 to 90 minutes and is done in a clinic, day surgery center, or hospital. Leads, which are thin, flexible wires, are placed in near the spine using a special needle. The leads are connected to an external wireless neurostimulator that is secured to the patient’s back during the trial.

The actual implant procedure is a surgical procedure and is typically done only in an operating room setting. After electrodes are placed within the area from which pain originates, the patient is sedated and a small incision is made to implant the stimulator, an electric pulse generator about the size of a stopwatch.

The generator is implanted near the abdomen, upper buttocks, or upper chest, depending on where the pain originates. Usually patients are discharged the same day and can gradually increase their activity after two to three weeks of healing.

Your spine surgeon will give you specific information related to your particular condition and lifestyle goals, as well as a detailed description of the surgery and instructions on how to make the best recovery.

What you can expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

The UTHealth Neurosciences Spine Center brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to help provide relief for even the most complex problems. Your team will share insights, leading to better treatment decisions and outcomes.

We first investigate nonsurgical treatment options, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, we will work closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care. While you are with us, you will receive expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.


Anatomy of the neck and spine

  • The cervical region (vertebrae C1-C7) encompasses the first seven vertebrae under the skull. Their main function is to support the weight of the head, which averages 10 pounds. The cervical vertebrae are more mobile than other areas, with the atlas and axis vertebra facilitating a wide range of motion in the neck. Openings in these vertebrae allow arteries to carry blood to the brain and permit the spinal cord to pass through. They are the thinnest and most delicate vertebrae.
  • The thoracic region (vertebrae T1-T12) is composed of 12 small bones in the upper chest. Thoracic vertebrae are the only ones that support the ribs. Muscle tension from poor posture, arthritis, and osteoporosis are common sources of pain in this region.
  • The lumbar region (vertebrae L1-L5) features vertebrae that are much larger to absorb the stress of lifting and carrying heavy objects. Injuries to the lumbar region can result in some loss of function in the hips, legs, and bladder control.
  • The sacral region (vertebrae S1-S5) includes a large bone at the bottom of the spine. The sacrum is triangular-shaped and consists of five fused bones that protect the pelvic organs.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

Contact Us

At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.