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SCS Implant - questions!

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Back Surgery and Neck Surgery
Hi Everyone!

I had a wonderful visit with my neurosurgeon today. all I wanted was for him to consider me for an SCS implant. he said I was the perfect candidate. yay!!!!! I'm so excited. I'm waiting to hear from the doc office that would do the procedure. I know I gotta wait for the insurance to approve it and all that. I"m just sooooo excited to have the possibility of getting off meds!

I read a few archived threads about it. would love some more input on it... if it worked... if it did not for you.

compared to a 2 level fusion, I imagine the recovery would be a piece of cake, still I would want to be prepared. what can I expect?

thanks so much!


  • on your NS being so willing!! You are very lucky!

    Recovery depends on what kind of leads you have. First, you will have a trial, which most likely will be the percutaneous leads and the battery pack and such taped to you. Mine lasted 5 days. There isn't really any recovery with this other than you might be a little sore. They do large needles and through those needles thread the lead up your spinal fluid to your mid back (if you are getting it for lumbar reasons, as you have.) They will use a stitch or two to hold the leads in, and then you must be really careful during the trial to not pull those out.

    If the trial results in a 50% or greater reduction in pain, they will move forward with the permanent placement. Recovery from this varies for everyone. For instance, although my procedure was a total nightmare, I didn't have much lingering pain. And very strangely, I never felt my hip incision/implanted pulse generator AT ALL. Not once, not for a minute. I thought (and have heard) that the recovery and healing for just the pulse generator in the hip can be very painful/annoying.

    If you end up with paddle leads at the permanent placement, there is more pain and recovery as there will be removal of bone (laminotamy) and the leads sewn in/down. Many people report that the pain from that was more than they expected.

    Depending on the brand/unit you have, the pulse generator can be as small as a silver dollar (the kind I have, ANS/St Jude Eon Mini, or can be larger.) Mine is also rechargeable, and it is portable. Just today, I put on the belt, started the charging, and went around the house doing whatever. Laundry, cleaning, etc. NO limitations whatsoever.

    I use a lot of power with my favorite program (I have 7 right now to choose from) and as such, I charge about 3 times a week, 1.5 to 2 hours each time. I could probably go longer and charge for 3 hours, but my wiggle nerve is happier to charge more often. I don't want to run out of power! lol Most people charge once a week with my brand, but they may not use as much power as I do. I have 2 leads and love a stronger pulse.

    But in general, for those whom the SCS works, we all agree that the pain of the trial and final placement are so worth it because of the pain relief we experience. Pain relief we thought would never happen. The surgery pain is different and we all know, temporary. It is so awesome to just whip out that remote control and set the programs for whatever we need. I have one for sleeping, which is really soft. But my favorite one is quite strong, a more constant pulsing rather than a definitive pulse pulse pulse, and I buzz down both legs to my feet. I LOVE it. The buzzing/pulsing is just so comforting to me.

    It takes 4 to 6 weeks or longer for the leads to scar down, so you must be very careful during that time to not bend over, for example, and pull the leads loose. During the trial, for example, you can't lift your arms over your head, etc. Good to make some plans ahead of time - make sure things that you will need are not on high closet shelves, wear clothes that are easy to deal with.

    Now that all the inflammation has gone away, I can definitely feel the outline of the pulse generator when I put my hand on my upper hip, but I have no sensation. It doesn't bother me and I was surprised to find that I can wear jeans with no problem. I spent almost the entire trial in velour sweat pants/casual pants with elastic waist. Comfy clothes to hang around the house. But now, I'm in jeans and they can be quite tight - no issue with the pulse generator at all.

    I wish you well on your new journey. Please do continue to post and let us know how it goes!!

  • Cheri,
    thank you SOO much for your very detailed response. I will be printing it out and reading it several times. my first question, though, is why do you still have to take meds??? am I being naive to think I could be med-free?

    I will have more questions, I'm sure. right now, am working on taxes though! uugh.

    thank you again, for your thoughts/comments/suggestions.

    REALLY appreciate it.
  • Well, for one, getting off pain meds isn't the goal of SCS. Pain reduction? Definitely. I have had a huge reduction in my breakthrough meds and muscle relaxers. Where I used to take 2 percocet 10/325's a day, I've probably had 6 since Jan. 5th. I used to take 3 Soma's a day for muscle spasms, and now I probably take 3 a week. I will continue on my current level of long-acting meds for several more months, making sure I am good and stable. I had considered starting to wean, but then went out of town for 9 days with a 9 hour car trip each way and all the activity kicked my rear end. I was thankful to have not started weaning yet.

    As I'm getting more active (was stuck in a recliner 23 hours a day for 2 years prior), my body is in extra pain, but a different kind of pain. I've had back pain, additional muscle spasms, but I know it's all part of the process. So hard to describe. Not having that burning/searing pain every moment of every day makes all other pain so much more tolerable.

    I don't think you're being naive about the meds, I would just caution you to not go too quickly. I know for me, doing anything other than reclining all day long is strange and different and I'm letting my body get used to it at a reasonable pace.


    P.S. I have noticed, though, that I often "forget" take my afternoon dose and several hours later, I will remember. So that tells me I am getting to where I don't need it. I am keeping close attention to that and will mention this at my next PM appointment in April.
  • Cheri,
    again thank you so much for your detailed response. I have another questions. I watched the video procedure on this site. what is the actual procedure like? how much does it hurt? I'll do whatever, trust me. just want to be mentally prepared.

    I've been on meds so many years. I would love to just have to take one here and there. that would be success for sure.

  • I am really not the person to answer the question of "does it hurt" because mine hurt beyond horribly, but I had problems, very rare problems that the majority of people do not have. I persevered because of the relief I did get once the procedures were over with. For me, it was and has been amazing.

    I hope someone else can respond for you, because both my trial and permanent placement were not something I would want you to use as a baseline!

    Good luck,

  • Most people find the procedure to be fairly tolerable, but of course like anything else, there are always exceptions. For my trial the doc only used a bit of local anesthetic to numb up the area where the leads were inserted. I could feel pressure but not much else. The burning from the lidocaine was the worst of it, which is no big deal.

    The permanent implant procedure was a breeze since they were able to use IV meds. Even though I was "awake" during the placement verification, I was out for the rest. I woke up, had some post op meds for inflammation, was programmed and released. I used Tylenol and Celebrex to manage the post op pain. I was very active by day 4 post op.

    Good luck with your trial,

  • glad you had kind of a normal experience with the implant. I know what it's like to have complications.

    I'm really excited about the possibility.

    did you or Cheri need any kind of post-op meds stronger than the ones you were previously taking? Cheri, maybe you don't want to answer this since your experience was unusually horrible... though I am curious what happened. don't worry, I won't get freaked out. if you don't want to post it for everyone to read, feel free to write me directly if you have time. thanks.
  • does your implant help any with muscle cramps? I know my TENS doesn't help any with that. I usually wear the TENS in the lower back... but my right thigh is contantly tight... along with my right hip. am curious if it's helped either of you with issues like that.

  • Here is the thread where I talked about my experience. There are others as well, update posts, on the pain management board. PLEASE realize this was a very rare situation!!

  • could you please comment on the 3 - 4 hour psych evaluation? is it all conversation? written?
  • The psych evaluation will depend on your doctor and your insurance company's requirements. Some require a full blown evaluation from a neuropsychologist, while others will settle for the little computerized "video game" version of the BHI2 that the pain doctor can administer right there in the office and hook to the internet to print the results. :)))
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