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Spinal Cord Stimulator Placement


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 is surgery that 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.


Before your surgery:

  • An informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.
  • An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Anesthesia is medicine to make you comfortable during the surgery. Healthcare providers will work with you to decide which anesthesia is best for you.
    • Local anesthesia is a shot of medicine to numb the surgery area. Local anesthesia allows you to be fully awake during the surgery or procedure. You may feel pressure or pushing, but you will not feel pain.
    • Monitored anesthesia is medicine given through an IV. This medicine keeps you comfortable, relaxed, and drowsy during the surgery or procedure.
    • General anesthesia will keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. Healthcare providers may give you anesthesia through your IV. You may breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down your throat. The tube may cause you to have a sore throat when you wake up.

During your surgery:

  • Temporary lead placement:
    • You may get general anesthesia to keep you asleep during the surgery. You may get local anesthesia to numb the surgery area. Local anesthesia allows you to stay awake during the surgery so you can tell your surgeon when your pain decreases. This helps him make sure the SNS is in the best spot.
    • Your surgeon will place electrical leads through a small incision or a needle inserted into your back. He may need to remove a small piece of bone to insert the leads along your spine. He will use an x-ray to make sure the leads are in the correct place.
    • The incision will be covered with bandages. The leads will be connected to wires and attached to a pulse generator placed outside your body.
  • Permanent lead placement:
    • Your surgeon will remove the temporary lead and replace it with a new, permanent lead through an incision or needle in your back.
    • He will make another incision in your abdomen or buttocks. Then he will make a small pocket under your skin and place the SCS. He will attach wires to the SCS and tunnel the wires under your skin. He will connect the wires to the leads placed in your spine.
    • The incisions will be closed with stitches and covered with a bandage.

After your surgery:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

  • SCS settings on the remote control can be changed to help relieve your pain. Your healthcare provider will show you how to adjust the settings.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicine can help take away or decrease your pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you ask for your medicine. The medicine may not control your pain if you wait too long to take it. Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a healthcare provider when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.
    • Antibiotics are given to prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Ice packs may be used to decrease the pain from the incisions.


The spinal cord stimulator may not work correctly and you may need to have it replaced. You may develop a headache, or your pain may get worse. Surgery may cause you to bleed or to leak spinal fluid. After surgery, you may get an infection at the incision site. You may also get a serious infection, such as an abscess near where the leads are placed. This may lead to paralysis or become life-threatening. Without treatment, your pain may get worse.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Spinal Cord Stimulator Placement (Inpatient Care)

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