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SCS~How safe are they?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:29 AM in Pain Management
:? MY husband is going to be getting a trial of a SCS.. I heard one man say if you fell or bumped something he was told there was a risk of becoming paralyzed, if the leads hit the spinal cord?? How true is this? Can someone please tell me the pro's and con's of the SCS?? thank you!


  • Well my daughter is on her 3rd unit. The 1st the batteries which were supposed to last 6yrs lasted 2yrs. No fault of the unit itself, she just always seemed to have it cranked up on high. They replaced the unit with a rechargable unit. I use to tease her about not forgetting to back up to the wall & pluging in for the nite. That unit the leads came loose for what reason I'm not sure. At any rate Medtronics replaced the unit, but it still cost her for the day surgery. This unit is another battery unit with better batteries that are supposed to last longer & she has learned to dial it down & only use when she needs it.She could not function without it & it has cut back on her need for pain pills. She just turned 28 last month & has 2 boys & works full time & is working on her Bachelors degree. So there is no slowing this girl down.
    Did I mention how proud I'm of my daughter with everything she has been through? She is a trooper.
  • That's completely untrue. Your spinal cord has the same amount of protection as a person without an SCS, as far as "bumping" something and causing paralysis is concerned. The leads are placed under the vertebrae, directly on the dura of the spinal cord and the spinal cord (and lead) remains protected by the bones in the spine.

    There are no major structural modifications made to the spine, with one exception; if you have surgical leads for the permanent implant, it requires a standard laminectomy/laminotomy. That removal of bone is the same procedure surgeons use day in and day out to correct disk herniation and decompress nerve roots; it's not specific to the SCS.

    When you go through the process of getting to the SCS trial and permanent implant, the doctors will address the risk of injury, including paralysis with you. That risk is not particular to the SCS; it's the exact same risk that comes with any procedure that involves a surgeon working near your spinal cord. According to the literature, the risk of significant, permanent injury during the SCS placement (trial and permanent) is less than .5% (one half of one percent). You have greater odds of winning the lottery this afternoon. ;)

    For me, the SCS is winning the lottery. I had just finished graduate school, had an incredible job, a fantastic relationship with my spouse, a wonderful group of friends - I had my whole future laid out in front of me and in a blink of an eye, all that was gone.

    Almost overnight, I became totally bedridden in my early-30's; the person whose friends stopped wanting to call or visit because it was too uncomfortable for them; who got fired from my job because I ran out of leave time; and whose spouse is too "tired" of it all to even care anymore. It sounds like a movie made for Lifetime TV, but it's the actual turn my life took.

    I spent 2 years completely bedridden. Some days I was able to walk to the bathroom and back; other days not so much. Once every couple of weeks, I'd force myself to go out to a store for about 30 minutes and that excursion would put me in the bed, unable to walk or even breathe without pain for 3-4 days at a time. The day after I got my SCS trial, I went to the mall and shopped for 5 hours, had dinner out with my family, and went to a movie theater. The next day, I cleaned my own house, for the first time in ages. I continued that level of activity for the entire week of the trial, all while cutting my meds by about 75%.

    Since my permanent implant, I've been doing a ton of rehab work, to recover my body from the years spent in bed and not moving. I had a lot of muscle wasting and gained a lot of weight during that time, so it's been a recovery not for the faint of heart. I still have things to work through, but I'm exercising 4-5 days per week, losing weight, able to cook and clean my own house, tend to my own responsibilities, and looking now to return to work as soon as I find the right job.

    To me, any risks and "cons" with the SCS are so far outweighed by getting my life back that I can't even see them. They're somewhere in the dust cloud left in the wind as I fly by. :))(
  • I'm with Bionic,
    There is little chance of the leads doing much more than giving you a few jolts till you shut your unit off if they are damaged. The usual thing to happen is the lead breaks and the unit stops working. Every lead break I have heard of has happened during a hard fall, it is not common, they are designed to flex.

    I'm on day 3 of my 7 day trial. I highly recomend if your husband is being considered a vialble candidate that he at least study up on what to expect and give it the trial.
    If he does not like it or it does not work for him then he will have removed the "what if" doubt from his mind. If it works then he can truly have an informed knowledge of it to make up his mind.

    As with any surgical procedure there are risks. Same as with medicines. We here all have to compare and make up our own minds when these choices are offered.

    I just came back as I reread your question.
    For pros I think the biggest one is to reduce or eliminate the use of pain medicine. The SCS can also work to control pain in some people that nothing else has worked on at all.
    We have several of those people here posting regularly.

    Cons, They often don't get approved easily by W/C or insurance companies often until it is the last ditch effort. They are expensive. They require surgery, while it is not as serious as some of the surgeries you will see mentioned here it is still surgery.
    The units will sooner or later require a battery replacement, even the rechargeables wear out. The manufacturers are saying 2-7 years for regular battery and 9 years for the rechargeables.

    I'm sure there is stuff I have forgotten, I forget a lot of stuff from my meds.
  • I found this website a few weeks ago and I am so grateful that I did. From what I have read, all of the people on this site seem like nice, caring ppeople, who are just trying to feel better and to help other people in similar situations.

    Last week my doctor suggested that I get an scs implanted.
    At that point I did not know anything about them. I spoke with the doctor, watched the videos and called Medtronics. The Medtronics rep gave good information but the best source for info has been all of the people on this site.

    Personally I am not worried about having the device in my body or the procdure itself. I am worried about the recovery. From what I read it sounds pretty tough for about 2-3 months. I don't think I would have to live with too many restrictions after it is in, but that also worries me. Although my pain already puts too many restrictions on my life. I would love to hear about somebody's post surgery experience and what things if any they have to restrict.

    By the way, if they ever make a movie about BionicWoman's life I will definitely watch it. I love a movie with a happy ending.
  • Hi Claudia:

    There is a pretty small risk with the SCS trial procedure. I had two of them and came out just fine! They place the leads through an epidural into the epidural space so the risks with the trial are similar to getting an epidural injection with the added risk of infection, given that the leads do hang out of the body (though the risk is very slight).

    I have just started a blog for patients considering the whole process. I am 29 and had the two trials this summer and had the perm. implant placed on 1/16/09..so I am almost 2 months post-op. I have been writing about my progress and I've also been trying to write about issues that are pertinent to a patient considering this route. I posted about both of my trials, exactly what happened and how my pain was during and after each one. If you or your husband is interested, please take a look. I've also posted pics of everything (from the trials to the actual surgery..so he can see what my incisions ended up looking like). I am trying to update it as much as possible..if you get a chance to look, please don't hesitate to ask me any questions. I can only tell you about my experience, but would be happy to do so!

    Best to you and your hubby,
  • Thank you all so much,,I know this has helped ease my husband's mind as well as my own.We are at the last resort stage..He has been almost a year and a half now. It started he woke up one morning with extreme pain, had a hard time walking. Come to find out he has just ruptured out a disk, just because, for no apparent reason. The disk material was severely pressing on the sciatic nerve, but they were still unable to get him to have surgery for 2 months.I am inclined to think that caused the scarring on the nerve roots. Since then we have been to several doctors,through Pt attempts several times,Pool therapy,(which he could do ,but did not improve the pain level or movement restrictions).He has been diagnosed with failed back surgery syndrome.And also has epidural fibrosis..OH i forgot ,this is on the L5-S1.He did have the epidural nerves block done 2 times ,and it did absolutely nothing. His symptoms are awful and he is on strong pain meds,but the pain is the nerve pain,which will radiate in his back and clear down ,out his toe. And sometimes even in the right leg as well. The higher the pain gets,the more foot drop and loss of control he has of left legs. and if he keeps going his legs will completely give out on him. He lost movement in them for over 6 hours last Easter,after coming from a dinner ,where he sat in a recliner ,and rode home...He has went from a healthy,hard working ,active 35 year old ,to one that is resorted to bed and times of playing on the computer for short intervals. He lost his job ,his insurance, you name it..It sure has been a hard year,,Thank goodness for God's strength in our lives...the one thing we do have against us is right now we have a M/A card. We had no choice with no insurance anymore. So we are waiting for approval for the SCS...I sure hope it goes through ,and we finally get some relief,..in his case another surgery isn't a option.
  • Tell your husband to come visit us here. We all understand.
    I was 45 and riding downhill mountainbikes with my teenage son when all this happened to me, we so very much understand.
    He can pretty much say anything he wants here about how he feels. We all, been there, done that in one form or another!

    The one thing I never expected from the SCS, day 5 of my trial :), is that chilled feeling I get from it. The sensations it creates can be much like a shivver and while you are not freezing it does create that feeling from time to time. I read Danimals blog and that was the first I connected the chill feeling to the SCS! Not a deal breaker by any means.
  • We just got back a while ago from my husband having his functional capacity evaluation..he did about the 10 percent of it,when he wasn't able to complete a squat to the ground, that told them right there that he was unable to the bending ,crawling,exercises..so all in all he failed about 90% of it.
    This I hopes helps get his disability through. I) I)
  • I hope the rest of the process goes quicker for you both.
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