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  • Writer's pictureStefan Heyden

Conquering Chronic Pain: Understanding Spinal Cord Stimulator Trials and the Road to Lasting Relief

Updated: Apr 6, 2023


For those who have exhausted traditional pain management techniques, spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can be a life-changing treatment option. However, before fully committing to the procedure, patients undergo a trial period to assess their responsiveness to SCS. In this blog post, we will walk you through the spinal cord stimulator trial process and its significance in determining whether SCS is the right path for lasting relief.


What is a Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial?

A spinal cord stimulator trial is a short-term, temporary procedure that allows both the patient and the medical team to evaluate the effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation in managing chronic pain. During the trial, temporary leads are placed along the spinal cord and connected to an external stimulator device. The trial typically lasts 5-7 days, providing patients with ample time to gauge their pain relief and overall satisfaction with the treatment.


Why is the Trial Important?

The spinal cord stimulator trial serves several essential functions:

  1. Assessing Effectiveness: It allows patients to experience firsthand the pain relief provided by spinal cord stimulation, ensuring it is an effective treatment for their specific pain condition.

  2. Personalized Treatment: The trial enables the medical team to customize the SCS system's settings to maximize pain relief for each individual patient.

  3. Informed Decision Making: A successful trial gives patients confidence in moving forward with the full SCS implantation, while an unsuccessful trial indicates that other treatment options should be considered.


The Spinal Cord Stimulator Trial Process:

  1. Pre-Trial Consultation: During an initial consultation, your medical professional will assess your medical history, perform a physical examination, and discuss your pain and treatment goals. This evaluation helps determine if you are a suitable candidate for the SCS trial.

  2. Trial Procedure: Under local anesthesia, temporary leads are placed along the spinal cord using a needle or a small incision. These leads connect to an external stimulator device that is worn outside the body. The procedure typically takes about 1-2 hours.

  3. Trial Monitoring: During the 5-7 day trial period, patients maintain a pain diary to record their experiences. The medical team may adjust the device's settings throughout the trial to optimize pain relief.

  4. Trial Evaluation: After the trial, patients meet with their medical team to discuss the results. If the trial is deemed successful (usually defined as a 50% or greater reduction in pain), the patient may move forward with the full SCS implantation.


Preparing for a Successful SCS Trial:

Here are some tips to increase the likelihood of a successful trial:

  • Follow all pre-trial instructions provided by your medical team.

  • Stay active during the trial to assess the device's effectiveness during daily activities.

  • Keep an accurate pain diary to facilitate discussions with your medical team.

  • Communicate openly with your medical team about your experiences and expectations.

Conclusion:

The spinal cord stimulator trial is a crucial step in determining if SCS is the right treatment option for managing chronic pain. By allowing patients and medical professionals to assess the effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation, it ensures that those who move forward with the full implantation are likely to achieve lasting relief. If you are considering SCS, consult with a qualified medical professional to discuss your options and find out if a spinal cord stimulator trial is right for you

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