Benefits and Risks – Neurostimulators
Neurostimulation may reduce your chronic pain and improve your ability to go about your daily activities. Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks associated with using a neurostimulator for your chronic back and leg pain.
Typically, people who have success with neurostimulation:
- Experience at least 50% reduction in their pain1-6
- Feel a mild tingling sensation in the area where they feel pain
- Decrease the need for oral medications1-6
- Reduce side effects of oral medications1-6
In addition, this treatment:
- Does not involve permanent changes to the spinal cord or nerves
- Can be adjusted to provide different levels of stimulation for various activities and times of day
- Is reversible – your doctor can turn it off or remove the system
- You can try the therapy for a short period of time before you receive a permanent implant
Although the goal of neurostimulation is to manage pain while causing as few side effects as possible, all pain treatments have risks.
Common side effects include:
- No stimulation resulting in a loss of pain relief due to lead movement or other causes
- Intermittent stimulation
- Stimulation in the wrong location if leads move
- Uncomfortable stimulation
- Pain at the stimulator site
- Programmer or data transmission problems
Serious adverse effects occur less frequently, but are possible.
- Neurostimulation does require surgery – as with any surgery, the risk of infection exists
- Blood (hematoma) or fluid (seroma) may leak into the area where the neurostimulator is implanted
- In rare cases, spinal cord injury may occur from incorrect surgical placement of the lead
- Device complications may require additional surgery to relocate, repair, or replace parts of the system
- North R, Kidd D, Zuhurak, M, et al. Spinal Cord Stimulation for Chronic, Intractable Pain: Experience Over Two Decades. Neurosurgery 1993;32 384-395.
- Kumar K, Toth C, Nath R, et al. Epidural Spinal Cord Stimulation for Treatment of Chronic Pain–Some Predictors of Success. A 15-Year Experience. Surg Neurol 1998;50:110-121.
- De La Porte C, Van de Kelft E. Spinal Cord Stimulation in Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Pain 1993;52:55-61.
- Devulder J, De Laat M, Van Bastalaere M, et al. Spinal Cord Stimulation: A Valuable Treatment for Chronic Failed Back Surgery Patients. J Pain Symptom Manage 1997;13:296-301.
- Burchiel K, Anderson V, et al. Prospective, Multicenter Study of Spinal Cord Stimulation for Relief of Chronic Back and Extremity Pain. Spine 1996;21:2786-2794.
- Turner J, Loeser J, Bell K. Spinal Cord Stimulation for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Literature Synthesis. Neurosurgery 1995;37:1088-1096.
Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor.
Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Last updated: 22 Sep 2010