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Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial and Implant

Advancements have been made in spinal cord stimulation technology, allowing more people to benefit from trials of spinal cord stimulator implants. The stimulator blocks pain signals from the nerves in the spine to the brain, providing relief. Patients undergo a short trial period to determine if spinal cord stimulation is their best treatment option. During the trial, the physician works closely with each patient before the decision is made to implant a long-term device.

People undergo spinal cord implant for a range of conditions, including chronic neck or back pain, chronic regional pain syndrome, complex pain syndrome, failed back surgery syndrome, arachnoiditis, peripheral neuropathy, radicular pain syndrome and radiculopathies, and reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Over time, generator implants have decreased in size, and some models are now safe to be used with MRI. Controlled sensors automatically adjust to body movement, and generator life is longer.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Procedure

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 the area 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 similar. 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 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.

Spine Disease and Back Pain


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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.


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