Spinal Cord Stimulation
Spinal cord stimulation uses low voltage stimulation of the spinal nerves to block the feeling of pain. The mild electric current is delivered through a pulse generating device that is surgically implanted under the skin. The stimulation feels like a mild tingling in the area where the current is placed. Pain is reduced because the electrical current interrupts the pain signal from reaching the brain. Spinal cord stimulation may be an option for patients with chronic pain associated with sciatica, failed back surgery, or nerve pain, who have not benefitted from more conservative therapies.
UPMC neurosurgeons implant the device using a two-step process – placement of the surgical lead in the epidural space of the spinal cord and placement of the pulse generator in the buttock or abdomen. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, is used to help guide the surgeon. Most patients are discharged from the hospital the same day or the following morning. Stimulation does not cure the condition causing pain, but helps patients tolerate pain. Most patients experience good to excellent long-term relief from pain.