Spinal Cord Stimulator, also called dorsal column neurostimulation, is a treatment that may be indicated for some types of chronic pain conditions. A Spinal Cord Simulator is an implantable device that consists of a tiny insulated wire called a lead, and a power source called a battery or receiver. When activated, the device sends impulses that block pain messages to the brain.
When it is decided that spinal cord stimulation may benefit a patient the first step is a “trial” which can be performed in the outpatient setting. During a spinal cord stimulator trial, lead wires with stimulating electrodes are placed through a hollow needle that is inserted through the skin of the low back, under x-ray guidance, into the epidural space or spinal canal. During the procedure the patient may receive IV sedation to relax but is awake so when the device is activated the patient can provide feedback and tell the doctor whether pain is relieved. This helps guide the doctor in placement of the leads. The trial lead wires are secured to the skin with a small suture and the system is covered with a large bandage or dressing on the back during the trial period. The trial period usually lasts 4-7 days during which time the patient will evaluate at home how effective the stimulator works to relieve pain. At the end of the trial, the patient will return to the office, the trial leads will be removed and together the patient and doctor will discuss whether permanent implant of spinal cord stimulator is indicated.