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What Can I Expect During a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial?

What Can I Expect During a Spinal Cord Stimulation Trial?

Have you ever tried something on or given it a “test run” before buying it? This crucial step can help determine whether it’s a great fit before you take it home. It’s also a similar concept to a spinal cord stimulation trial, except this test run is to make sure it will provide pain relief.

Unlike other forms of pain management involving medications and injections, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) devices disrupt the nerve activity triggering your pain sensations. It does this by delivering mild electrical pulses into the epidural space of your spinal canal. This, in turn, interrupts the pain signals before they reach your brain, with the goal of reducing or eliminating your symptoms.

If you have chronic back pain that hasn’t responded to more conservative treatments, Vladimir Fiks, MD, at Advanced Pain Management Center could suggest SCS. However, before implanting your device, you undergo a trial period to make sure it works.

Are you considering SCS? Here’s what you can expect during a spinal cord stimulation trial.

The basics of an SCS trial

A spinal cord stimulation device uses three components:

During an SCS trial, Dr. Fiks inserts temporary wires into the epidural space of your spinal canal. However, the pulse generator is secured outside of your body.

The generator then delivers electrical pulses through the wires and into the epidural space. If Dr. Fiks considers your SCS trial a success, he implants permanent wires and also inserts the pulse generator underneath your skin. 

Whether you undergo a trial or have the generator implanted permanently, the remote control never gets implanted. It’s a handheld controller that enables you to turn the device on and off, target different areas, or increase and decrease the level of stimulation.

Setting up your SCS trial

It usually takes Dr. Fiks 30-90 minutes to set up your trial device. 

First, Dr. Fiks injects local anesthetic into the treatment site to keep you comfortable. Then, he uses a special type of X-ray and a hollow needle to guide the wires into place near your spinal cord. Once in place, Dr. Fiks connects them to the external pulse generator and tapes it to your back.

Finally, Dr. Fiks uses the handheld remote to program the amount of stimulation going to the wires. When you leave the office, you take the remote with you and adjust the pulse intensity and duration as needed.

You may have some mild tenderness where Dr. Fiks places the temporary wires, but this usually fades within a few hours or days.

Undergoing your SCS trial

After placing your temporary device, Dr. Fiks sends you home with a specific list of instructions. In many cases, this involves tracking which device settings you used and when. It’s also essential to capture how well it relieved your pain.

Things to consider when tracking your pain include:

In addition to tracking your device usage, you should also avoid getting the trial system wet or engaging in activities that could dislodge the wires, such as heavy lifting or twisting. Do know that a permanent SCS device doesn’t have these restrictions.

The trial period usually lasts 5-10 days.

After your SCS trial

After wearing your temporary device for up to 10 days, you return to see Dr. Fiks. In most cases, he considers your trial a success if it reduces your pain by at least 50% and improves your quality of life. If that’s the case, you can move forward with getting a permanent device.

If the SCS trial is not deemed successful, or if you decide against the device, Dr. Fiks can easily remove the temporary wires and external generator. No additional steps are required.

To learn more about spinal cord stimulation, and to see if it may be able to reduce or eliminate your pain, call 971-233-4199 or book an appointment online with Advanced Pain Management Center today.

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