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 complex regional pain syndrome symptoms.


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 extension
  • Device complications may require additional surgery to relocate, repair, or replace parts of the system


  1. North R, Kidd D, Zuhurak, M, et al. Spinal Cord Stimulation for Chronic, Intractable Pain: Experience Over Two Decades. Neurosurgery 1993;32 384-395.
  2. 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.
  3. De La Porte C, Van de Kelft E. Spinal Cord Stimulation in Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Pain 1993;52:55-61.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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