Spinal Cord Stimulation

This surgical procedure involves placing a spinal cord stimulator, or SCS, to treat pain in the back, arms or legs caused by nerve damage or low blood flow. The stimulator is also called a dorsal column stimulator, or DCS. The stimulator produces mild electrical pulses to stimulate the nerves, blocking pain signals.

The OHSU Spine Center favors the least-invasive options whenever possible. Your doctor may recommend SCS, however, if medication and other treatments don’t help. Your doctor also may suggest trying a spinal cord stimulator for a few days to make sure it relieves pain before switching to a permanent stimulator.

The procedure

You receive sedation and local anesthesia. The doctor, using a type of X-ray called fluoroscopy, guides a needle into the epidural space, near the spinal nerves but not in the spinal cord. The doctor then inserts one or two wire leads into the space. The leads are connected to a stimulator placed under the skin, usually in a buttock or the abdomen.

The stimulator delivers mild electrical pulses to electrodes at the end of the leads, near the dorsal surface of the spinal cord. This reduces pain and improves blood circulation.

This is an outpatient procedure. You shouldn’t eat beforehand, and you’ll need someone to take you home.

Condition this treats

This may be recommended for: