Spinal Cord Stimulation

At Phoenician Pain Management we can treat your pain after spine surgery or due to pain from CRPS (RSD)

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Watch Dr Hatgis perform a spinal cord stimulator trial

Watch Dr Hatgis perform a spinal cord stimulator trial

What is a spinal cord stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a device which is approved for patients who have had back surgery in the past and have pain even though they have had back surgery.  This device is very helpful for this kind of pain as well as other kinds of pain including complex regional pain. This device is very good at treating pain that radiates into the legs/arms as well as low back or neck pain. There is a trial portion where the device is placed under live x-ray and taped in place under sterile dressing. The patient then goes home for up to seven days with the device intact to evaluate if this device will help them. If the patient determines that this device is helpful then it can be installed permanently.


Why try a spinal cord stimulator?

A spinal cord stimulator is a device, which uses some of the technology that pacemakers have developed over the years. It uses a small amount of electricity to block the conduction of pain signals in the spine.  There are different types of spinal cord stimulators which you should discuss with your doctor on your office visit.


What is a spinal cord stimulator trial?

The "trial" refers to placing the leads under Xray in the appropriate location with a needle which is an epidural needle. This is similar to an epidural however the lead which is pictured below.


If you are taking a blood thinning medication you must let us know beforehand as this increases your risk tremendously. We will discuss your options and optimize the safety of this procedure.




Can anyone have a spinal cord stimulator?


Most people can have a spinal cord stimulator. If you have any localized infection, such as a boil on your back, or a generalized infection, the procedure would not be performed until the infection has cleared up.


The procedure is done under live xray to ensure that the stimulator is placed correctly


If you are taking a blood thinning medication you must let us know beforehand as this increases your risk tremendously. We will discuss your options and optimize the safety of this procedure.


What are the risks and complications?


There is a risk of headaches after this procedure, and that risk is about 1/1000.  If this should occur after this procedure another procedure may need to be done. This headache it’s very similar to the headache after an epidural.


The most common problems relate to local anesthetic which may

be used. Local anesthetic could be injected into a blood vessel which can cause lightheadedness, seizure, numbness around the mouth.


Infection is always a risk whenever anything is injected into the body, and we take precautions to avoid this by performing the procedure as a fully sterile technique. With the spinal cord stimulator trial the patient goes home with the stimulator taped in place. You must be very careful about not getting the dressing wet. If the dressing comes off at any time during the trial you must call the office immediately so that we can remove the leads. An infection from the spinal cord stimulator trial can be very serious. Discuss this risk with your doctor before the trial.

If an infection does get in it can produce the symptoms of feeling unwell, headache, and stiffness of the neck. This can occur quite soon after the injection.


How is the procedure performed?

The procedure is performed in the operating room or office under ultrasound. When you arrive a small needle may be inserted into one of your veins, for safety, so that should any drugs be required, they can be easily given. You will be expected to lie on the table face down are you may have this sitting depending on the doctor preference.


Local anesthetic is injected into the skin and deeper tissues to reduce the discomfort of the procedure. However, when the needle is inserted there will be a feeling of someone pushing in your shoulder, which is normal. The needle may be inserted between your front or your shoulder. When the operator has put the needle in and confirmed that the needle is correctly positioned. The injection will be given and the needle removed.


What happens after the procedure?

After the procedure you will go into the recovery area where your blood pressure will be monitored.



What pain may you experience during the procedure?

The amount of pain experienced might become worse for a

short period of time. If this occurs, it is not dangerous and

should settle over time. You should start to have a relief 48 hours after the injection.


Back at home

You should not remove the dressing. Keep the dressing clean and do not wet it.


Will you be followed up afterwards?

You will be called for follow up to determine how the stimulator is helping.


Important information

Please let us know before if you have:


A cold/flu


A persistent cough

You are taking a course of antibiotics prior to procedure

Or there has been any significant change in your overall health

as this may affect your procedure.


Failure to do so may result in your procedure being cancelled on the day.



Please take all your prescribed medication as normal prior to

your procedure unless you have been otherwise advised


Please bring a list of all your current medication when you

attend for your procedure


Can I eat before I come in?

If you plan to get sedation for the procedure you should not eat from midnight the night before.



If you have any questions or concerns about this procedure call the office at 480-444-7480




This handout should not be considered more important then your doctors advice when you spoke to him in the clinic. The information contained in this is generalized and may not pertain to your specific condition.

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