With locations in Marrero, Metairie, and Covington, we have patients visit our Louisiana pain clinics for a variety of reasons. One of the issues our chronic pain patients come to us about is neuropathic pain.
What is neuropathic pain?
Neuropathic pain is pain that's generated by the nervous tissue itself. The function of the nerve is affected in a way that it sends pain messages to the brain. Neuropathic pain is often described as burning, stabbing, shooting, aching, or like an electric shock nerve type pain.
It is a maladaptive response to nerve injury of either the peripheral or central nervous system.
Treating neuropathic pain with spinal cord electric stimulation
One of the most frustrating aspects of neuropathic pain (aside from the associated pain) is that it can be very difficult to treat. Traditional painkillers such as paracetamol, anti-inflammatories and codeine usually do not help very much.
Some estimates suggest only roughly 40-60% of sufferers achieve even partial relief with treatment.
Here at Southern Pain & Neurological of Louisiana, one of the most effective treatment methods we introduce to patients suffering from neuropathic pain is spinal cord electric stimulation.
Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) delivers mild electrical stimulation to nerves along the spinal column. This stimulation can modify – or block – nerve activity, without the need for opiates. As a result, the pain sensation patients feel fail to reach the brain – in other words, a patient's pain is greatly reduced, or all together removed.
Spinal cord stimulation has been used for decades. As its effectiveness continues to prove itself, it's being recommended for an increasing number of conditions. In addition to neuropathy, we've seen great success with SCS for treating failed back surgery syndrome, cervical and lumbar radciulitis, and complex regional pain syndrome.
What to expect leading up to your spinal cord stimulation procedure
If after an initial screening our chronic pain specialists consider you a good candidate for spinal cord stimulation, we'll schedule a trial period.
The trial period is similar to long-term therapy, except the device used to transmit the current is not fully implanted into the body. Rather, only the wires are. Then, an external transmitter will send electrical pulses to the contacts located near the spinal cord.
During your trial period, our specialists will monitor the level of function and the level of of pain relief you feel, particular in different situations throughout the day and night.
If the trial period is a success, and the patient does experience substantial relief, we'll schedule the procedure. Here's what you can expect during your long-term procedure:
- Local anesthesia is applied to the injection site and the patient is mildly sedated.
- The doctor inserts a hollow needle into the area around the spinal canal (the epidural space). We use fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray) to guide the process. The needle contains thin, insulated wires, called leads, with electrical contacts attached.
- The permanent leads are implanted. (If we used permanent leads during the trial period, then this step is unnecessary.)
- The patient is awakened and works with our doctor to ensure the optimal placement of the electrodes. When that's achieved, the patient is sedated again.
- After a trial period, a small incision is made where the generator will be placed just under the skin.
- The generator is implanted under the skin, usually in the abdomen, upper buttocks, or upper chest. These generators range in size, with the largest ones being about the size of a stopwatch.
- Wires are tunneled from the leads to the generator and connected, enabling the current to flow when the controller is turned on later.
- The incision is closed and the patient begins recovery.
Patients who undergo this procedure often experienced a dramatic improvement in their quality of life, due to the reduction of their chronic pain associated with neuropathy. May patients can stop using opiates after implantation.
Do you suffer from the symptoms of neuropathy? Our team can help you discover if you're an ideal candidate for spinal cord stimulation therapy.
Contact our offices today to schedule your free consultation.