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Patient & Family Guide
2016
Spinal Cord
Stimulation
Division of Neurosurgery
QEII Health Sciences Centre
1796 Summer Street, Room 3806
Halifax, Nova Scotia B3H 3A7
Tel: 902-473-7809
Fax: 902-473-7808
www.nshealth.ca
Spinal Cord Stimulation
You have been offered a procedure called Spinal
Cord Stimulation. This method of pain control
will not take away the reason why you are
having pain. However, we hope it will give you
pain relief by sending tiny electrical impulses
through a lead (“leed”) to block the pain signal
from reaching your brain.
Before your operation, your neurosurgeon
will visit you to talk about the procedure. He
or she will ask you to sign a consent form for
the operation. This is a good time to ask any
questions you or your family may have.
There are 3 steps to this procedure: (1) the
implantation of the temporary lead, (2) a trial
period, and (3) permanent implantation of the
pulse generator. Not everyone goes through all
3 steps. On the following pages we will explain
what happens at each step.
If you have any questions, please ask.
We are here to help you.
1
1. Implantation of the temporary lead
You will be taken to the Operating Room (OR)
where the anesthesiologist will place an
intravenous (IV) needle in your arm. This will
be used to give your body fluids during the
operation. You will then receive an injection of
some local anesthetic (freezing) into the area
of your back where the lead will be placed. This
will help lower any discomfort you may feel and
help you relax. Using an X-ray, the surgeon will
place a temporary lead into the space near your
spinal cord.
It is important that you are awake during the
operation. Your team will ask you questions to
help make sure the lead is in the right place and
decide if the stimulation will help control your
pain.
If your team feels the placement of the lead
might help your pain, you will now go to step 2.
If not, the lead will be removed. You will be able
to go home the same day either way.
2
2. Trial period
• This will last 1-2 weeks. You will be at home
during this time.
• You will have a bandage and some wires
sticking out of your back. These will be
connected to a machine called an external
neurostimulator (ENS). The ENS causes the
electrical impulses that go to your spinal cord.
• A member of your pain team will teach you
how to use the remote which will let you
control how strong and fast you want the
current (tingling) to be.
• You may have a lumbar (back) X-ray the day
after the implantation.
• The trial period lets you and your team know if
Spinal Cord Stimulation will help control your
pain and if you are comfortable with the new
sensation (tingling) you will be feeling.
• If the trial period is successful you will go on to
step 3.
3
At home
• You may feel some discomfort in the area of
the lead.
• Keep taking your usual medications.
• Leave your dressing in place until your next
doctor visit.
• Do not shower until your next doctor visit.
• You may have a sponge bath.
Things to watch for
›› Redness at insertion site
›› Fever
›› Bleeding or clear, colourless drainage from
your incision
You may feel a change in sensation if you move
suddenly or change position.
Turn off the stimulator while you are driving or
sleeping.
4
When do I call the doctor?
If bleeding happens:
›› Place your hand over the dressing and
press firmly.
›› Place the affected part up on pillows above
the level of your heart, if possible.
›› Rest quietly until the bleeding stops.
›› Contact your doctor if the bleeding does
not stop.
In case of really bad bleeding, go to the
Emergency Department immediately.
Call your doctor as soon as possible, if you
have any of these signs of infection:
›› Fever or chills.
›› Increased swelling, redness, or warmth
around the wound.
›› Increased drainage from the wound.
›› Bad smell from the wound.
›› Pain that is not helped by the pain pills
you are taking.
5
3. Permanent implantation of the pulse
generator
• If you and your team are satisfied with
the results of the trial period, you will be
placed on a surgical waitlist for permanent
implantation.
• You will be admitted to the hospital the day of
your surgery. This procedure will be similar to
the trial. You will have to sign a new consent
form for this operation.
• You will be taken to the OR where the
anesthesiologist will place an IV needle in your
arm. He or she will give you some medication
through this needle
to make you
comfortable.
• The leads from your
back will be placed Lead
External
under your skin
antenna
and connected to
the pulse generator
(battery) with an
Extension
extension cable.
The pulse generator
will be placed in a
Pulse
pocket under your
generator
skin. This is usually
around your belly
area.
6
After surgery
• You will be admitted to the Neurosurgery
Nursing Unit (7.3) overnight. The nurses will be
checking your temperature, blood pressure,
pulse, and surgical dressings every 4 hours.
• Tell the nurses if you are having any pain,
spasms or clear fluid leaking from your
incision.
• A member of your pain team will see you
before you go home. He or she will make sure
you feel comfortable using the programmer to
control your stimulator.
At home
• You may feel some discomfort in your back
and around the pulse generator. This may last
several weeks and is normal.
• You can use an ice pack for up to 24 hours after
your operation to help lower any swelling and
pain around the incision.
• Keep taking your usual medications.
• For the first 6 weeks after your operation do
not do any heavy lifting. Avoid bending and
twisting movements as strenuous (hard)
activity could move or break the lead.
• Do not drive with your stimulator turned on.
7
Things to watch for:
›› Redness at insertion site
›› Fever
›› Bleeding or clear, colourless drainage from
your incision
You will be given an ID card that will have
important information about your stimulator.
Carry it with you when you go out.
You will be given an appointment to see your
neurosurgeon in the Neurosurgery Clinic in 6
weeks.
Call your doctor as soon as possible, if you
have any of these signs of infection:
›› Fever or chills.
›› Increased swelling, redness, or warmth
around the wound.
›› Increased drainage from the wound.
›› Bad smell from the wound.
›› Pain that is not helped by the pain pills
you are taking.
8
Please feel free to make notes in the space
below. Your neurosurgeon has recommended
the following guidelines to care for your
wound:
9
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Nova Scotia Health Authority
www.nshealth.ca
Prepared by: Division of Neurosurgery, QEII©
Illustration by: LifeART Super Anatomy 1 & 7 Images, Copyright © 1994, TechPool Studios Corp. USA
Designed by: Nova Scotia Health Authority, Central Zone Patient Education Team
Printed by: Dalhousie University Print Centre
The information in this brochure is for informational and educational purposes only.
The information is not intended to be and does not constitute healthcare or medical advice.
If you have any questions, please ask your healthcare provider.
WL85-0058 Updated March 2016
The information in this pamphlet is to be updated every 3 years or as needed.