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Benefits of a Nerve Stimulator Implant


Benefits of a nerve stimulator implant for pain management

A nerve stimulator implant, also known as a spinal cord stimulator implant, is a device designed to send gentle electrical impulses to the spinal cord. The goal of this type of treatment is to help with pain management for patients dealing with a number of conditions.

Chronic pain and other symptoms of these conditions, including tingling, numbness and muscle weakness, can have a negative effect on quality of life. By actually disrupting nerve impulses that travel between the spinal cord and the brain, nerve stimulator implants can achieve significant relief that allows people to resume activities that were previously difficult to perform.

If you’re seeking effective pain management for chronic back pain, failed back surgery syndrome (fbss), complex regional pain syndrome, arachnoiditis, diabetic neuropathy, angina or another condition, learning about the benefits of nerve stimulator implants can help. Patient education is a critical part of the relief journey, and at USA Spine Care, we’re committed to enabling a proactive approach that allows you to work more closely with your treatment team.

What are the primary benefits of nerve stimulator implants? 

A spinal cord stimulator is often recommended for patients seeking pain management for debilitating symptoms that have not responded to conservative therapies. Although medication, injections, rest and lifestyle changes offer relief for many people dealing with chronic pain, others can pursue treatment for weeks or months without improvement.

In other situations, patients dealing with complications related to a previous spine surgery require pain management beyond basic treatments yet want to avoid having to undergo another procedure.

In these situations, a doctor may recommend a nerve stimulator implant. Nerve stimulation therapy facilitated by an implanted device can offer the following benefits, especially compared to medications, for patients:


  • There is no chemical dependency — Pain medication, especially powerful prescription medications, can create chemical dependency. This can lead to needing increasingly large doses to find relief. Nerve stimulation works by sending a gentle electrical pulse directly to the spinal cord that replaces pain with a light tingling sensation. This allows patients to significantly reduce the need for medication, or eliminate it entirely.
  • Does not involve taking or refilling medication — Another drawback of medication is having to remember to take it as well as repeatedly purchase over-the-counter medication or have prescriptions refilled. Once the implanted device has been placed it can function for years without the need for replacement.
  • Patients can control the level of stimulation — With adjustable stimulator settings on an external controller, patients can increase or decrease the level of stimulation to a degree that is comfortable, offering the ability to fine-tune that isn’t possible with other forms of treatment.
  • Spinal cord stimulation surgery is minimally invasive — Compared to other forms of spine surgery, even minimally invasive decompression procedures, spinal cord stimulation involves a very small incision and limited tissue disruption. This is one reason why it is an attractive alternative for patients who are dealing with FBSS or who are not viable candidates for spine surgery.
  • Allows for a higher activity level and the ability to complete physical therapy — Chronic pain can be a vicious cycle. The pain can make it difficult to move and accomplish daily activities, leading to a sedentary lifestyle. However, a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle breakdown, decreased function and mental health issues that can worsen chronic pain. A nerve stimulator implant can help break this cycle by giving patients relief that can help increase activity levels and undergo physical therapy that can in turn rebuild muscle and improve range of motion.


What to expect from nerve stimulator implant surgery

The first phase of a spinal cord stimulator implant procedure is the trial period. In this initial procedure, the surgeon will only attach a small pair of electrodes to the space around the spinal cord. These electrodes are then attached to an external generator that sends the current to the pain area in the spine. This allows patients to determine whether nerve stimulation therapy works before undergoing the full procedure.

After about a week, the patient will then have surgery to permanently place the implanted device. This will typically involve a small incision in the lower back or abdomen followed by careful tunneling of the wires underneath the skin. The procedure is brief and patients are generally able to move within a short time after the procedure.

After vitals are checked, the postoperative team will provide instructions for incision care and resuming activities during the recovery period. Patients will also receive information on maintaining and caring for their nerve stimulator implant, including how to adjust stimulator settings when needed.

Reach out to USA Spine Care today to learn more

At USA Spine Care, our caring and dedicated team has decades of combined experience helping patients receive the pain management needed to reach positive outcomes and a return to an active lifestyle. Our expert surgeons can perform outpatient spinal cord stimulator surgery at our state-of-the-art ambulatory surgery centers conveniently located across the United States.

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a candidate for one of our procedures, contact us today.

Call toll free 1-866-249-1627.

Spinal Cord Stimulator - People Also Ask

Spinal cord stimulator implants are covered by Medicare and are billed under:

  • Percutaneous Leads and Extensions
    63650 Percutaneous implantation of neurostimulator electrode array, epidural
    63661 Removal of spinal neurostimulator electrode percutaneous array(s), including fluoroscopy, when performed
    63663 Revision including replacement, when performed, of spinal neurostimulator electrode percutaneous array(s), including fluoroscopy, when performed
  • Paddle Leads
    63655 Laminectomy for implantation of neurostimulator electrodes, plate/paddle, epidural
    63662 Removal of spinal neurostimulator electrode plate/paddle(s) placed via laminotomy or laminectomy, including fluoroscopy, when performed
    63664 Revision including replacement, when performed, of spinal neurostimulator electrode plate/paddle(s) placed via laminotomy or laminectomy, including fluoroscopy, when performed
  • Stimulators
    63685 Insertion or replacement of spinal neurostimulator pulse generator or receiver, direct or inductive coupling
    63688 Revision or removal of implanted spinal neurostimulator pulse generator or receiver
  • Analysis and Programming
    CPT codes 95970–95973 are used to report electronic analysis services. These are not considered medically necessary when provided at a frequency more often than once every 30 days. More frequent analysis may be necessary in the first month after implantation.

Published studies of spinal cord stimulation show good to excellent long-term relief in 50 to 80% of patients suffering from chronic pain. One study reports that 24% of patients improved sufficiently to return to gainful employment or housework with stimulation alone or with the addition of occasional oral pain medication.

Unlike a spinal fusion, a spinal cord stimulator surgery is reversible. If a patient decides at any time to discontinue, the electrode wires and generator can all be removed.

Spinal Cord Stimulation is an option for those suffering from chronic, intractable pain of lower back and/or limbs including unilateral or bilateral pain associated with the following conditions:

  • Failed Back Surgery Syndrome (FBSS)
  • Radicular pain
  • Post-laminectomy pain
  • Multiple back surgeries resulting in continued or worsening pain
  • Unsuccessful vertebral disk surgery
  • Degenerative Disk Disease
  • Peripheral causalgia
  • Epidural fibrosis
  • Arachnoiditis
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Causalgia

No surgery is without risks. General complications of any surgery include bleeding, infection, blood clots, and reactions to anesthesia. Specific complications related to SCS may include:

  • Undesirable changes in stimulation (can possibly be related to cellular changes in tissue around electrodes, changes in electrode position, loose electrical connections, and/or lead failure)
  • Epidural hemorrhage, hematoma, infection, spinal cord compression, and/or paralysis (can be caused by placing a lead in the epidural space during a surgical procedure)
  • Battery failure and/or battery leakage
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Persistent pain at the electrode or stimulator site
  • A pocket of clear fluid (seroma) at the implant site. Seromas usually disappear by themselves but may require a drain.
  • Lead migration, which can result in changes in stimulation and reduction in pain relief
  • Allergic response to implant materials
  • Generator migration and/or local skin erosion
  • Paralysis, weakness, clumsiness, numbness, or pain below the level of implantation

In a spinal cord stimulator trial, temporary electrodes are placed and then the patient uses an external device to generate electrical current. The electrodes are placed under x-ray guidance with the patient lying on his belly. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and deeper tissues. The electrical wire or lead contains a series of four to eight evenly spaced electrodes that can be programmed to generate an electrical field. A spinal cord stimulator trial period is at least 5 to 7 days. This gives you time to test the device and evaluate its effectiveness managing your pain at rest and during activity

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