Spinal Cord Stimulation: What Is the Success Rate?

Updated on January 19, 2021

Spinal cord stimulation is a procedure used in the long-term alleviation of chronic pain. It is usually performed in patients with chronic back pain to improve the quality of life. It can also alleviate chronic pain affecting other parts of the body. 

Statistics show that 33% of Americans suffer from chronic pain. As such, procedures like spinal cord stimulation are useful when other pain-alleviating alternatives fail to work. Spinal cord stimulation has a success rate of up to 80% in providing long-term relief of chronic pain.

Success Rates

As a medical procedure, spinal cord stimulation is generally safe and effective in reducing pain levels for chronic pain patients. A reduction in pain levels is what determines the success of the procedure. It is successful if patients experience pain relief by more than 50% for several years. 

50 to 80% of patients who have received the procedure have reported experiencing long-term relief. This means that they received pain relief by more than 50%. 24% of this population were able to return to their normal life and effectively perform daily activities after recovering from the procedure. However, some patients may need further oral pain medications for maximum pain relief after completion of the procedure. 

According to a research done by the National Institute of Health, roughly 30% of the patients who go through the procedure fail to obtain long-term pain relief. In a study, patients who use tobacco and other drugs like cocaine and marijuana are less likely to benefit from the procedure than those who do not use drugs. This is because these drugs are associated with psychological disorders like depression and anxiety. They are also associated with physiological disorders like slow healing.

The efficacy of the stimulation depends on several factors, such as:

  • Proper surgical technique
  • Selection of the patient
  • Successful trial simulation
  • Psychological and physiological factors

Patients should note that the procedure does not treat the underlying cause of chronic pain; it only helps relieve the pain symptom. Therefore, there is the likelihood that if the underlying condition is not treated and worsens, the pain levels may increase with time. 

Risks of the Procedure

Although spinal cord stimulation has a high success rate, it has some risks. This is mainly because it is an invasive procedure that involves the insertion of an implant on the spinal cord. As such, it has risks like:

  • Leaking of the cerebrospinal fluid during surgery
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical wound after the procedure
  • A negative reaction to the anesthesia 
  • An allergic reaction to the material used in the implant
  • Prolonged pain at the placement site of the stimulator

Candidates for Spinal Cord Stimulation

Not all chronic pain patients are eligible for this procedure. A physician will first review your pain and medication history and your physical well being. A qualified psychiatrist will also review your psychological history. This will help determine the likelihood of success because psychological factors are known to reduce the procedure’s success rate. 

Patients who have incurred one or more spinal injuries are eligible for spinal cord stimulation. Additionally, people who had chronic pain for more than three months, which is unresponsive to pain medications, are also potential candidates for the procedure. Generally, you are a potential candidate if:

  • You have tried conservative treatments and they were unsuccessful
  • Additional surgical procedures would not be beneficial
  • The spinal cord stimulation trial is successful
  • The underlying problem of your problem is correctable
  • You do not use drugs of abuse
  • You lack any psychological disorders like depression
  • You do not suffer from medical disorders that prevent implantation

After weighing the pros and cons against the reality of living with chronic pain, you may decide spinal cord stimulation is right for you. Discuss risks and alternative options with your doctor. Even though the success rates are generally high, Sevenish Injury Lawyers recommend having a personal injury lawyer ready in case medical malpractice occurs during the procedure. 

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.