New Advances and Applications for Spinal Cord Stimulation
– At Midwest Interventional Spine Specialists, we have always been at the forefront of new technologies and treatments to help our patients. One of the most innovative and effective procedures we use is Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS). We utilize SCS as a modality to help patients with chronic pain who have failed to receive relief from other interventions including surgery.
A spinal cord stimulator is a small medical device in which the leads are implanted in the epidural space and the battery is placed under the skin in the upper buttock area. It generates electrical pulses to the spinal cord, or specific nerves, that interrupt pain signals from reaching the brain. The first SCS was implanted over 50 years ago. Since then, there have been significant improvements and enhancements to the technology and its applications. Since 2008 this technology has improved by leaps and bounds. We can now target stimulation to the dorsal root ganglion to treat the affected dermatomes. This means we can target the specific spinal nerves involved.
One key advantage of this technology is that one is able to “test drive” a SCS. A trial stimulation is done for seven days and then removed. A patient can experience the technology to see whether or not it alleviates their pain symptoms. You can watch a video of how the trial procedure is performed on our website at: https://spinecaremw.com/blog-post/what-is-a-spinal-cord-stimulator-trial/.
As life-changing as this technology is, the latest advancements in application are stunning. A recent study in Switzerland described the use of spinal cord stimulators to treat patients who were completely paralyzed after suffering from spinal cord injuries. The study involved 3 men who were paralyzed after motorcycle accidents. They had no sensation in their legs. The investigators utilized longer, and wider electrode leads that are placed on the dorsal nerve roots from the thoracic to sacral region. This enables precise control in regulating specific neurons in the muscles.
Within one day of receiving spinal cord stimulation, they were able to take supported steps. After a few months, they were able to walk with the assistance of a walker. Other activities they successfully tackled included recumbent bike riding and standing at a bar. One participant was even able to climb stairs.
The researchers cautioned that this treatment application is in the very early stages of development and, in itself, is not a replacement for wheelchair use. However, these research results offer significant promise for future mobility with assistive technology. SCS also presents a practical option for widespread use. It is exciting to see that the same technology we have utilized for decades to conquer chronic pain may now offer additional life-changing applications.
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