Spinal Cord Stimulation

What is A Spinal Cord Stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator (SCS), also called a dorsal column stimulator (DCS), is a small implantable medical device used to treat neurological pain caused by nerve damage or low blood flow. It works by sending mild electrical signals to the dorsal surface of the spinal cord. These electric pulses provide a sensation that prevents pain signals from reaching your brain.p>

If you have leg or arm pain that does not get better after surgery, a spinal cord stimulator might help. However, this treatment doesn’t work for everyone. Your doctor and a psychologist evaluate you and discuss alternatives, such as:

Your doctor may suggest trying a spinal cord stimulator for a few days to test whether it relieves your pain. If a temporary spinal cord stimulator works well, your doctor may switch you to a permanent stimulator.

The Procedure

Using an X-ray, the doctor guides a needle into the epidural space (near the spinal nerves, but not in the spinal cord). Once it is in place, the doctor inserts one or two spinal cord stimulator leads (small wires) into the epidural space. The leads are connected to a small device placed under the skin of your buttock or abdomen (stomach). This device sends a mild, safe electrical current to the leads near the dorsal surface of the spinal cord. The electrical current reduces pain and improves blood circulation in the painful area.

Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure that is done on an outpatient basis, with no overnight hospital stay. Your doctor gives you:

  • Sedation (medicine to make you relax and minimize discomfort)
  • Local anesthesia (the area getting the procedure is numb, and you’re awake during the procedure).

If you need to, you can talk to your doctor during the procedure. You should not eat before the procedure. You need someone to take you home afterwards.

Learn More About Spinal Cord Stimulation

Watch our Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant video to learn more about spinal cord stimulation.

Our goal is to provide you with the best spine care. Please find our list of resources and educational materials designed to help understand your specific spinal condition, treatment or post-surgery follow up care.