Orthopedic specialists use spinal cord stimulators to treat individuals with severe, chronic pain from various conditions. The small device sends mild electrical impulses to the spinal cord, replacing pain signals with a mild tingling feeling. While the medical device does not eliminate the pain, it helps those suffering manage and participate in activities they once loved.
Most of those who qualify for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) have had other surgical procedures administered and still suffer from chronic pain. Just like with other surgeries, the spinal cord stimulation procedure has risks. Before you choose your medical treatment option, you will want to speak with your orthopedic specialist about your condition and options before choosing this method of pain management.
What Are the Risks of Spinal Cord Stimulation?
Due to the potential risks, receiving spinal cord stimulators is not a first-line treatment option. While considering the procedure, you will want to be fully aware of the potential dangers.
Infection is a common and dangerous risk with any surgery—including the spinal cord stimulation procedure. Because a medical device is inside your body, there is a slight risk of infection around the implanted hardware. In the case of infection, you may require surgery or removal of the device, depending on the infection’s severity.
Loss of Pain Relief
Depending on the type of stimulator and its location, there is a risk of gradually losing pain relief. The stimulators deliberately replace the pain signals with a tingling or numbing feeling, which can target specific sections of pain. Speak with your orthopedic specialist about this risk and the severity of your pain.
Leads Malfunctioning or Breaking
The spinal cord stimulator delivers stimulation through leads or insulated wires adjacent to the spine. When we move our body, our spine’s vertebrae and the surrounding intricate connective tissue bend and flex. Sometimes, the leads cannot move with our body and may break or malfunction.
Leads Moving Out of Position
While less common now than in previous years, there is still a risk of leads moving out of position and requiring surgery to fix. Due to special new devices and components within the stimulator, the risk is significantly lower. However, speak with your orthopedic specialist about the potential risk and any of your concerns.
Malfunction or Failing Pulse Generator
The device relies on a pulse generator to stimulate the spine with mild electrical pulses. The pulse generator has a lifespan and runs off batteries which typically need replacing after a few years. If there’s an issue with the battery or the generator fails and needs repairing, the process may involve surgery.
It’s important to remember and understand that any surgical procedure comes with risks. If you are eligible to receive a spinal cord stimulator and wish to learn more about the potential risks and benefits, speak with an orthopedic specialist who may analyze your condition and provide objective and honest information.
Find a Board-Certified Orthopedic Specialist at NJ Spine & Orthopedic Today
Pain caused by the spine is challenging and results in other injuries, including immobility and loss of motor function. Our NJ Spine & Orthopedic team is passionate about providing patients with pain relief. With advanced training and innovative equipment, our orthopedic specialists have the knowledge and tools to provide an objective diagnosis and treatment options best suited for your condition. We devote our practice to connecting with those in need of our services and relieving them of chronic, severe pain.