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SCS battery surgery questions

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,578
edited 06/11/2012 - 7:28 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.

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  • 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.
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  • 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.

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