Spinal Cord Stimulator Placement
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.
A spinal cord stimulator (SCS) is a device used to control pain after other treatments have not worked. The SCS delivers a small amount of electrical current to your spinal cord to block pain. SCS placement surgery is done in 2 stages. In the first stage, a temporary SCS is placed and left in for about a week. In the second stage, a permanent SCS is placed if the temporary device reduced your pain. You will get a remote control to turn the pulse generator on and off and adjust the pulses.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:
- You have a severe headache or a seizure.
- You are not able to move part of your body.
Seek care immediately if:
- You have a fever.
- Blood soaks through your bandage.
- You have back pain, numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, or muscle weakness.
- You have difficulty urinating or having a bowel movement.
- You have a stiff or sore neck.
- You have nausea or are vomiting.
- You become confused or feel faint.
- Your incisions become swollen, red, more painful, or have pus coming from them.
Call your doctor or surgeon if:
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Antibiotics are given to prevent or treat a bacterial infection.
- Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow these safety instructions for 6 to 8 weeks or as directed by your healthcare provider or surgeon:
- Do not bend at the waist, twist, stretch.
- Do not sleep on your stomach.
- Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds.
- Do not drive until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
What you need to know about your SCS:
- Your healthcare provider will give you an identification card with information about your device. Keep this with you at all times. Show the card to all your healthcare providers. Tell them you have an implanted SCS. Some tests and procedures may damage the SCS.
- Turn off the SCS before you walk through a security system, including in stores. The SCS can set off some security systems. Metal detectors and security systems can also increase or decrease the stimulation from the SCS. Show your identification card and ask to get through security points without going through security systems.
- Turn off the SCS before you drive or operate machinery or power tools. Microwave ovens are safe to use.
- The device can damage or erase credit cards and computer disks. Keep them at least 2 inches away from your SCS.
- Ask your healthcare provider for instructions on bathing and swimming when your surgery area has healed.
- Ask your healthcare provider before you scuba dive or enter a hyperbaric chamber. These activities can cause the leads to move and increase pain.
Care for the surgery area:
Check the area for signs of infection each day, such as swelling, redness, pain, or pus. You will be shown how to clean the area and when to change your bandages. Ask if you need to keep the area covered when you bathe.
Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your wound for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed.
Ask your healthcare provider or surgeon about exercises you can do safely while you have the SCS. Light exercise can help you get stronger and may help decrease pain.
Follow up with your doctor or surgeon as directed:
You will need to have the temporary SCS removed or replaced with a permanent SCS. After the permanent SCS is placed, you will need to return to have your stitches removed and the device checked. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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