Steps of Spinal Cord Stimulation

What is spinal stimulation?

Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure where percutaneous electrodes are inserted into the epidural space of the spinal canal along the area where the affected nerves attach to the spinal cord. The electric pulses from the electrodes intercept the pain impulses and create a feeling sensation versus traditional pain. A small battery is implanted into the hip/side/buttock area to power the electrodes.

Who is the procedure for?

Patients with radicular pain or any neuropathic pain resulting from injury to a nerve or nerve root, amputees with phantom pain and patients with Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.

Procedure details and recovery time?

The procedure takes place in 2 parts, the trial and the permanent implant. The trial which is totally reversible usually lasts 3-7 days. It is an outpatient procedure where the patient goes home the same day. Normal activities can be resumed except for showering and getting the site wet. The trail allows the patient to test Spinal Cord Stimulation and determine the amount of pain relief they receive. Generally a minimum of 50% improvement is desired to proceed with permanent implant.

The permanent implant is an outpatient procedure as well. The patient can go home the day of the procedure but must refrain from bending, lifting, or twisting for approximately 6-8 weeks. The patient is generally fitted with a back brace to assist in immobilization.

Steps of Spinal Stimulation

  1. Psychological clearance is required for all spinal cord stimulator trials. This can be done at any psychologist’s office that offers an “MMPI2” test. Please check with your insurance company to be aware if this visit is not covered. This consists of a verbal and written exam and typically can cost around $250 out-of-pocket.
  2. Prior authorization from your insurance company for the trial is required. This process can take up to 30 days as stated by most insurance companies. We will submit the prior authorization within 24 hours of receipt of your psychological clearance approval, so be sure to have your psychologist send us the results to our fax at 866-644-8086 or by email to smiller@southsidepain.com as soon as possible.
  3. Once we receive approval from your insurance company, we are able to schedule you for the trial. Your insurance company will determine the location you will have your procedure performed at, so available times for your procedure will vary depending on this information. Please call us at 205-332-3155 or email smiller@southsidepain.com to schedule.
  4. A trial lasts 3-7 days and is an outpatient procedure, so you will be able to go home the same day. You can resume normal activity for the week with the absence of showering or getting the site wet. During this time, you will assess the amount of pain relief you experience. Generally we will not move forward with a permanent implant unless you receive at least 50% pain relief. This percentage of relief will be assessed at our office at your suture removal appointment which occurs within the week following the trial. At this appointment we will also remove the leads. This is done without sedation and is typically a quick and easy appointment.

  1. Using the benefit assessment from the suture removal appointment, we will submit a prior authorization for your permanent implant if you received at least 50% pain relief. Again, this process can take up to 30 days as stated by most insurance companies.
  2. Once approval is received for your permanent implant, we can schedule your procedure. Your insurance company will determine the location you will have your procedure performed at, so available times for your procedure will vary depending on this information. Please call us at 205-332-3155 or email smiller@southsidepain.com to schedule.
  3. One week after the procedure you will need to come back for a staple removal appointment. This appointment is necessary to take your staples out so your incision can heal properly. After this appointment the process is completed!