FAQs on Spinal Cord Stimulator Implants
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS, also known as neuromodulation) involves the use of a battery-powered implanted generator that emits mild electrical current, which interferes with pain signal transmission.
Q: Is spinal cord stimulation safe?
A: Yes, SCS is proven safe and effective, and it has been used for pain management for more than 40 years. Thousands of people are treated with SCS each year. Additionally, SCS systems are FDA-approved for adults with chronic pain of the trunk, back, and lower limbs.
Q: Will spinal cord stimulation replace my pain medications?
A: Depends. Again, results vary from patient-to-patient. For some people, the spinal cord stimulator implant works well enough that analgesics are no longer necessary. For others, success of SCS means using less medication.
Q: Does a spinal cord stimulator implant make me pain-free?
A: Depends. The results are different for each patient. During the stimulation trial, you can determine the amount of pain relief you will receive. The pain is usually reduced by at least 50%, or else the physician will not consider permanent stimulator implant surgery.
Q: Is neuromodulation covered by health insurance?
A: For the most part, yes, but it depends. Spinal cord stimulator implant surgery and maintenance is covered by most health insurance plans. The physician must first gain your approval, and then providers will need to get pre-authorization from the company. The physician’s office can provide the insurance company with appropriate documentation to get the stimulator approved.
Q: Will the spinal cord stimulator help me if I have pain in more than one area?
A: Yes. Most SCS systems are designed to offer pain relief in several body areas at the same time. You can use the remote control device to adjust the intensity of the stimulation for each body region.
Q: Can I have diagnostic imaging tests with a SCS system?
A: Depends. Most diagnostic imaging tests are safe for people with a neuromodulator implant, such as CT scans, x-rays, PET scans, and ultrasounds. Most systems are not compatible with MRI scan testing, however.
Q: Can I use the spinal cord stimulator implant 24 hours each day?
A: Yes. However, the amount of time you use the device will depend on your physician’s recommendation. Most systems have a rechargeable battery, designed for long-term use.
Q: Will the implant be visible under the skin?
A: No. The spinal cord stimulator implant is not visible under the skin. However, you will be able to feel the device by pressing on the skin. The stimulator is about the diameter of a silver dollar. The doctor will position the device so it is in the most convenient location for you.
Q: How long will my spinal cord stimulator and battery last?
A: Depends. Most newer neuromodulation systems use a rechargeable battery that has a 5-year warranty. However, most of these systems last much longer. The battery can last for up to 20 years, depending on the amount of usage. The remote control notifies you of when the implant battery needs recharging.
Q: Will the SCS system set off security detectors or can it be tracked?
A: No. The spinal cord stimulator will not set off security detectors. It is not possible for the device to be tracked. However, each stimulator has a serial number on it.
Q: When can I resume my usual activity after the procedure?
A: For 4-8 weeks after the spinal cord stimulator implant procedure you are required to restrict your physical activity. Once that time period is over, you can lead a healthy, active lifestyle.
Q: Is the spinal cord stimulator implant surgery reversible?
A: Yes. Even though the leads are surgically implanted into the epidural space near the spinal cord, they can be removed by the physician if necessary. The generator is implanted on top of the muscle and below the skin, so it is easily removed.