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SCS battery surgery questions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:28 AM in Pain Management
Sorry to start a new thread, but I’m afraid my questions will just get buried if I ask them as a reply to one of the other threads. I’ve been gleaning tons of information about SCS from the hours I’ve spent reading these forums, but I haven’t read a lot about the SCS battery replacement surgery itself. I’m wondering if some of you could share your experiences with that?

Although the doctor and Medtronic rep tried to talk me into replacing my whole system (7 years old), for several reasons that I won’t go into here, I decided to just replace the battery for now. Since it’s been so long, my memory isn’t so great about how long I had the “pain in the butt”, and what, if any, restrictions there are afterward. Since all my original restrictions had to do with the whole SCS surgery, I don’t know if there are any with just the battery replacement.

Will I be able to drive, say, a day or two afterward? How long before you could shower? Can you turn the stim back on right away?

Also, for the surgery itself, do they just use local anesthesia, with maybe a little versed? How many hours do you have to fast before surgery? (I have a low blood sugar problem, and fasting is going to be very stressful for me)

Are you fairly numb for a few hours after surgery, or does it start hurting shortly after? I live 50 miles away from the surgery center on a winding mountain road, so if I need to lay down, I’ll ask my friend with a van to drive me, rather than just a car.

Okay, I guess that’s enough brain picking for you guys now. I want to be prepared, as you can see. I’d sure appreciate any experiences you can share with me!



  • BotzBotz Central FloridaPosts: 223
    I really can't answer your questions. But I have a few for you if you don't mind.You have your system for 7 years? How is it long term? Still giving you relief? I go for a trial on Mar 20th and am curious about long term usage.

  • For me, I recall my battery being a "PITA" more from the staples than the surgery. The pocket itself was uncomfortable for a little over a week and then it mellowed. For about 3 months I could irritate it by wearing clothing that would press too hard on it or with a band or belt that would settle at the top of it. It was nothing more than what a little anti-inflammatory medicine could take care of.

    I would think that for the battery replacement that general anesthesia or heavy sedation would be used. That's something that the doc should tell you or ask if you have a preference.

    I'm curious as to why you wouldn't have the entire system replaced, especially if the doc and rep were recommending it. From a mechanical/electronics stand point it makes more sense to replace the entire system instead of mixing newer technology with older technology.

  • Yes, my SCS was implanted on March 4, 2002 - just had my 7 year anniversary! The Medtronic rep was shocked that my battery has lasted this long. Mine is specifically targeted for pain relief on my left thigh. I have burning nerve pain, and hypersensitivity to anything touching it. Before my stimulator, I couldn’t stand wearing clothes at all. The stim gives me about 60% pain relief, enough to tolerate clothing, which is a very good thing! It improved my quality of life immensely, and I couldn’t stand to live without it now. I wasn’t able to reduce my meds, but that’s because I have RSD in other areas of my body, plus degenerative back and other joint pain.

    I did fall 3 years ago and broke one my leads, so my ‘tingling’ coverage area is only about 50% of what it used to be, but even with just 50% coverage, it does the job well enough. If I hadn’t broken the lead, it would still be humming away at 100%, after all these years. So yes, they continue to provide relief for many years, as long as the leads stay put.

    I don’t know if the doctors today are telling patients to be as careful after surgery as they told me back then, but I would TAKE VERY SERIOUSLY the restriction instructions, for 6-12 weeks. The longer you are careful to allow those leads to scar in the proper place, the better your long-term outcome will be.

    I don‘t know about how well they work on back pain, which I‘m assuming is your reason for trying one. Back when I got mine, they were saying it works best on limb pain, but with the newer technology out now, maybe it will help your back pain. I sure hope so, and I wish you very well with your trial.

  • Thanks for answering, C. I’m still hoping to hear from people who have only had a battery replacement. I know you had the whole SCS system implanted a little less than a year ago. Coming up on your anniversary date, too!

    As far as your question about replacing my whole system, there are several reasons I didn’t want to do that. Most importantly, though, they are designed to be a ‘permanent’ implant, and that’s even a selling point when they are recommending one to a patient. I was told the wires in my spine would be permanent, and I would only need to replace the battery every few years. If I had been told to expect a complete replacement every few years, I would never have had the surgery to begin with. I realize that when people have problems, they need to replace the leads, but it’s not supposed to be done just to utilize new technology.

    They know that these battery packs will need to be replaced eventually, and I expect them to have a compatible battery for my system. They have to build that into their manufacturing plan, or why even bother telling patients all they have to do is replace their batteries?

    The only reason my doctor & rep suggested replacing my whole system was the issue I mentioned in my post to Art above. One of my leads isn’t working, so my coverage area isn’t as large as it used to be. However, the 50% I am getting is enough for now, and I don’t want to risk the possibility of losing even that with a new system. My spinal column is very narrow, and they said they would have to leave my old wires in, and all they would do is try to place percutaneous leads nearby (my current one has paddle leads with a laminectomy). This doesn’t sound like a foolproof system to me, and I have doubts that it would give me the relief I have now. I’d just as soon keep my 50% sure thing, instead of gambling on an unknown. Also, since I have RSD, there is a big chance it could spread if they start messing around with my spinal nerves again.

    I’m just hoping they won’t mess anything up while replacing the battery, and will make sure none of my wires get moved!

  • When I asked my doctor about relocating my battery pack, he said that would be done in his office, under local anesthesia, and I'd be completely awake during the whole procedure. I would expect the procedure would be the same to change the battery, minus the tunneling involved in using a new pocket site.
  • BotzBotz Central FloridaPosts: 223
    Thanks for the reassurance that it has good long-term effects. I not only have back pain, which is tolerable. I have butt, leg and foot pain.

    I have been thru several surgeries and take very seriously my post-op instructions. I do not want any part of a broken/shifted lead. I was down for three months after my fusion. I’m not in any hurry to return to work. When my bodies ready I’ll go back.

    Good luck with your decision!
  • Art,

    I'm glad I was able to reassure you. The stimulator has really made a huge improvement in my life, and I really hope it will do the same in yours. I hope & pray your trial is very successful, and that you'll soon be on your way to a permanent implant!

    Yeah, you've been around the block on the post-surgery restrictions front, so I'm sure you'll do well. It was so hard for me, because I live alone, and I was pretty helpless. I hope you have a good support system of people to help out afterward. I ended up having 10 ladies from my church taking turns helping me with things, even down to having a lady wash my hair in the kitchen sink for 3 weeks!


    My doctor (well, physician's assistant) said they would do my battery in the surgery center attached to their clinic, that I would have some sedation, and because of that, I would have to completely fast for 6 hours prior. I'd rather not have the sedation if I don't really need it. If it's just to relax me, the process of fasting that long will cause me way more stress (& hypoglycemia) than being awake during surgery!
  • Rubybear,

    I just had my battery replaced Feb 3rd, so I think I can answer most of your questions.

    1. I had very little pain in my butt this time. Since the pocket is already there, they just took the old battery out and put the new one in. Also the new battery is smaller, so it fits in easier. I did have some swelling for about a week, but it was really only uncomfortable for about 2-3 days. I had no restrictions, I could drive the day after, but didn't feel like it. I stayed home from work for 2 days (my surgery was later in the afternoon).

    2. They told me I could get the incision wet after 3 days. Before that, I just sat on the edge of the tub with the sprayer. They turned my stim on in the recovery room to show me how to use it. I used it after the 2nd day when I felt like getting up and moving more. The only obsticle was charging. The battery wasnt fully charged and I had a hard time charging the first week or so because of the swelling in the pocket.

    3. I was lightly sedated during the surgery, I never fully went under. My surgery was scheduled for 2:00pm and I couldnt eat past midnight the night before. I just got up and 11:45 and ate.

    4. I live about an hour from my pain clinic and the surgery. I didn't start really needing pain medicine until about 2 hours or so after I got home. It wasn't the pain I remembered from the first surgery. The incision just hurt. I only took the percocet for a few days.

    I'll be happy to answer anymore questions you might have. I was very apprehensive before my surgery remembering the initial surgery, but it was not bad at all.
  • BotzBotz Central FloridaPosts: 223
    waiting for my trial. The 20th can't come soon enough for me. I have great support at home between my wife and son. My extedned family is also available for support if I need them.

    Thanks for your thoughts and prayers. I hope all goes well for your battery replacement.

  • I can understand your concerns and I see your point. I wasn't trying to imply that the system was that poorly designed or that it wouldn't be as permanent as they sell it to be. Not at all.

    I'm a mechanic. As such, I see things with the body from a bit different perspective at times. I see the body as a very complex machine and doctors are more mechanics than scientists.

    With the SCS, although it is designed to be a permanent device, it is a known that the battery/IPG will require replacement after so many years. This means "opening" the system up to do a partial replacement. To me, it only seems prudent, especially given advancements and improvements that are made all the time, to upgrade or replace the entire system all at once and give the body a chance to have better performance.

    Especially if there's already broken components in the system, even though there's still decent coverage, there's the possibility of better coverage.

    That's just how my mind sees it.

    However, especially with RSD I can understand not wanting to mess with anything that you don't absolutely need to. I can understand the fear of losing what you have by taking the gamble on something more. Of course only you can make the decision as to whether you want to risk it or not. I think it is great that your doctor respects that.

    Yes May is my 1 year anniversary and I am amazed at how fast time has gone by.

    Good luck and I will keep my fingers crossed that all goes well.

  • Hi Ruby:

    What kind of system do you have? Are you getting the exact type of system or could you get one with a smaller battery? Maybe if you were able to do that, you'd have less post-op pain?

    I just had a stim. put in on 1/16. It's a Medtronic RestoreUltra and is fairly small..I'd say about the size of 2 half dollars..though it isn't in the shape of a square.

    I also like the idea of you having just the battery replaced because my neuro. told me that once you have a system in, you develop a lot of scar tissue. Putting new leads in would increase your risk of damage to your spinal cord (for that reason, he only likes to operate on "virgin" patients who have never had a stim. before). So, I think you are very prudent to only want to replace the battery for now. Why are they suggesting you replace the leads as well?

    All the best,

    Chronic Stimulation- a personal weblog on living with a stim.
  • Hotlpooh,

    Thank you so much for your information. That was exactly the kind of stuff I was wanting to know about. It’s very encouraging to know the pain doesn’t last as long, or is as bad. I actually had a consultation with the surgeon today, and he answered some of my questions, but not all of them. A lot of them he said the Surgery Center would have to answer.

    My doctor said I would have to be 6 hours no food or water before. I don’t know how you managed 14 hours without food, water, or your meds! Of course, maybe you aren’t on as many meds as I am. I take 7 Neurontin per day, and if I miss a dose, my body knows it! I’m not even sure how I’m going to handle 6 hours, because I’ll possibly have to skip a dose, depending on what time the surgery is. The surgeon told me I could have a Dextrose IV, so I won’t completely pass out with my Hypoglycemia. I’m planning on bringing a sandwich or something in with me, so I can eat & take my meds right after, while I’m still in recovery.

    Did you have a rechargeable one before, that they replaced with another rechargeable? Or was your original one non-rechargeable, like mine is? I don’t really want a rechargeable battery, if I had my ‘druthers. I don’t have my current one turned up very high, and I think that’s one major reason it’s lasted 7 years. (The book says the battery life is 2-7 years)

    Two main reasons for wanting a non-rechargeable:
    1. I never sit in one place longer than 1 hour at a time, because I drink ½ gallon of water a day! I don’t know if I would have to sit ‘plugged in’ during charging.
    2. In the slight possibility that I develop RSD where the new incision is, placing a charger over it would be agonizing.

    I’m also concerned about compatibility with my older system. I would think a non-rechargeable would be more compatible with my current, very simple, program. Anyway, this is one of the main questions I’m going to ask the Pain Management clinic when they call me with a surgery date.



    As you can see, I have the same questions as you do about my replacement! I am pretty sure it will be smaller, because they don’t make my system anymore, and all the new ones are smaller. My current one is a Medtronic Synergy Model 7427. I’ll let you know what they say they are replacing it with when I find out.

    The argument I had with my doctor about entire replacement vs. battery only was that she didn’t want me to have to undergo two separate procedures, “in case the new battery doesn’t fix it” (her exact words). Well, there is nothing to ‘fix’, it’s just time for a replacement. We already know about the damage from 3 years ago, and a new or old battery wouldn’t make any difference there. She did honor my decision to just go with a battery.

    As for the Medtronic Rep, well, I think it goes without saying, they would get a lot more money if they replaced the whole system.

    Turns out, if I did have the whole system replaced, it wouldn’t be the same kind of leads that I have now, or be put in the same location. The doctor wisely realized that removing my old wires was not an option, so all they would do is try to put percutaneous leads on the outside. Hardly an optimal solution, in my opinion. I originally had a spine surgeon do a laminectomy and place paddle leads inside the spinal canal, or as close to it as possible, anyway.

  • Rubybear,
    I didn't have a rechargable battery the first time. I tend to keep mine up high and thats why my first battery only lasted 2.5 years. I'm still getting used to the charging, but it's getting easier everytime. My charger plugs into an outlet and charges by itself before I charge my battery. I don't have to stay pluged into the outlet. I have actually folded laundry, done dishes, and played on the computer while I charged. If I need to stop for a minute, I just unhook and and start back up when I'm ready. The charger was only uncomfortable for the first couple of times because of the swelling, but now it doesn't really bother me. I'm not sure about how it will work with your system. When I initially got mine, they told me there was a rechargeable battery that if this one didn't last long, I would be a candidate for. Sounds like they just use that battery as a standard.

    I hope it all goes well for you. Sounds like your biggest challenge will be going without meds. I only take ultracet as needed, so it wasn't a big deal for me. I was one of those who couldn't take neurontin or any of that. I just deal with the burning. Well I hope this all helps.
  • Hi Rubybear

    I have a bionics precision & it is rechargeable. I have a charger that you charge on a stand that is plugged in & then you put it in a belt & wear it around your waist so it is over the implant & you are free to do whatever you want - no wires!!! I have even taken the dog for a short walk!!
    I was concerned about the initial recharge as my incision was sore but as it was fully charged when they implanted it, it didn't need charging for about 3 weeks & initially I just did a short charge. It was uncomfortable but as time has gone by this has got easier. I cannot speak for RSD as I do not have this problem, but for me the rechargeable has been great.
    Hope you decide on the best for you, if there is anything else you want to know about the recharge, let me know.
  • Thanks for the rechargeable information, guys. It does ease my mind quite a bit. That's great that I can move around while it recharges, I didn't know that.

    I imagine the doctor and Medtronic rep know what they are doing, and the wouldn't give me a rechargeable unless it was compatible, so I will put my trust in them.

    As far as the RSD, I'm just going to pray and keep a positive attitude that I won't develop a problem with the new incision. I didn't have a problem the first time, so I'll just count on that!


    P.S. I've read about people having bad problems with neurontin, and thankfully I'm one of the lucky ones who have no side effects at all from it. I actually consider it my 'miracle drug', because it works on the burning so well for me.
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