Spinal Cord Stimulation
The University of Kansas Health System offers spinal cord stimulation as a treatment for people with chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that lasts for 6 months or longer. It is most commonly found in the back or legs. More than 100 million Americans suffer from some type of chronic pain. It is the primary cause of adult disabilities in the United States.
What is spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation is a pain management therapy that delivers mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord and interrupts the transmission of pain signals to the brain, thereby reducing pain. Spinal cord stimulation can provide advanced, long-lasting pain relief.
There are several types of spinal cord stimulation. At The University of Kansas Health System, we currently provide at least 6 FDA-approved types:
- BurstDR™ (Abbott)
- DTM™ (Medtronic)
- Evoke® closed-loop system
- High-frequency stimulation (HF10™; Nevro)
- Small implantable pulse generator systems
- WaveWriter Alpha™
There also may be other spinal cord stimulation options available as part of some clinical research studies.
Who can have spinal cord stimulation?
Spinal cord stimulation may be an option for people who are not able to manage their pain after trying other treatments, such as over-the-counter medications, prescription medications, injections or invasive spinal surgery. Studies show that 4 out of 5 people experience meaningful long-term pain relief. It may also be an appropriate choice for those who wish to avoid the use of addictive opioid medications for chronic pain.
How does spinal cord stimulation work?
Spinal cord stimulation involves placing a small medical device under the skin. This is performed during a minimally invasive procedure. The device sends mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord, reducing pain by altering abnormal pain signals traveling to the brain.
Spinal cord stimulation is effective because it uses electrical signals to quiet the nerves. You may be able to try spinal cord stimulation for a 1-week session to see if the treatment is right for you.
Benefits and risks of spinal cord stimulation
Because spinal cord stimulation requires minimally invasive surgery, there are risks associated with the procedure, including the risk of infection. You can prevent infection by keeping your device and any dressings dry. During the trial period and for a few weeks after implantation, you will also be advised not to lift your arms above your shoulders or lift heavy objects to ensure the device leads stay in place. Physical activity may also be limited.
Spinal cord stimulation devices can be left on 24/7 and have a 5-15-year battery life – ensuring you receive continuous pain control.
What happens during the spinal cord stimulation?
The device is implanted after a successful 1-week trial. The trial does not require any implants and the device will not be implanted unless you receive beneficial relief during the trial. If therapy is desired, your doctor will implant thin, flexible wires (called leads) beneath the skin, next to your spine. These wires are connected to a small, battery-powered pulse generator that is implanted under your skin. Because the procedure is minimally invasive, you will be able to return home the same day.
Why choose us for spinal cord stimulation
- Interdisciplinary care. You will benefit from a comprehensive team of doctors from different specialties all working together for you.
- A comprehensive approach. We work with you from the moment you walk through our doors, throughout your diagnosis and treatment and beyond.
- Innovative treatments. Because The University of Kansas Health System is part of an academic medical center, we offer innovative treatments and clinical trials – often long before other hospitals can.