Spinal Cord Stimulators have been a part of the pain management arsenal for over 30 years. They consist of a medical device that uses electronic currents to block pain signals before they reach the brain. A spinal cord stimulator device is surgically placed under the skin and sends a mild electric current to the spinal cord. Thin wires carry current from a pulse generator to the nerve fibers of the spinal cord. When turned on, the spinal cord stimulator stimulates the nerves in the area where pain is felt. Pain is reduced because the electrical pulses modify and mask the pain signal from reaching the brain. Maintenance of spinal cord stimulators is expensive and may continue for the rest of an injured worker’s life.
We generally see spinal cord stimulators recommended for our clients who suffer from chronic pain when all other treatment options have been unsuccessful. The injured workers who are most likely to receive a recommendation for a spinal cord stimulator from their pain management physician typically fall into three categories: crush injuries, multiple failed back surgeries, or those who have been diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
Although they are often touted as a panacea, it is important to keep in mind that the success of spinal cord stimulators varies. Recent studies have noted that the incidence of complications from spinal cord stimulators varies from 30% to 40% of patients. Adverse results are usually either hardware-related complications or biological complications. The most common hardware related complication is lead migration. Other lead related complications such as failure of the leads or fractures have also been reported. Biological complications include infection and pain over the implant. More serious complications such as dural puncture headaches and neurological damage are rarely observed, but have been reported.
If you or a family member has a work related injury and a spinal cord stimulator recommendation has been made, this is a serious and potentially life changing decision. We can help you make the right choice about implantation and we can also ensure that if you go forward with a spinal cord stimulator, your future medical costs will be covered by your workers’ compensation carrier. Call us today for your free consultation.