Kaare Meier

Spinal cord stimulation: Background and clinical application

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Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a surgical treatment for chronic neuropathic pain refractory to conventional treatment. SCS treatment consists of one or more leads implanted in the epidural space of the spinal canal, connected to an implantable pulse generator (IPG). Each lead carries a number of contacts capable of delivering a weak electrical current to the spinal cord, evoking a feeling of peripheral paresthesia. With correct indication and if implanted by an experienced implanter, success rates generally are in the range of about 50–75%.

Common indications include complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS I), angina pectoris, and radicular pain after failed back surgery syndrome, and the treatment is also used to treat stump pain after amputation, and pain due to peripheral nerve injury, peripheral vascular disease, and diabetic neuropathy.

Recommended contraindications for the treatment include pregnancy, coagulopathy, severe addiction to psychoactive substances, and lack of ability to cooperate (e.g. due to active psychosis or cognitive impairment). Most common complications to the treatment include lead migration, lead breakage, infection, pain over the implant, and dural puncture.

Despite extensive research in the area, the mechanisms of action are still only partially understood.

In this topical review the historical background behind the treatment is described and the current theories on the mechanism of action are presented. The implantation procedure is described in detail and illustrated with a series of intraoperative pictures. Finally, indications for SCS are discussed along with some of the controversies surrounding the therapy.

The reader is presented with a broad overview of spinal cord stimulation, including the historical and theoretical background, practical implantation technique, and clinical application.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScandinavian Journal of Pain
Pages (from-to)175-181
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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