Spinal Cord Stimulation – Reading the Small Print

Spinal Cord Stimulation – Reading the Small Print

When 70 year old Phil Meade agreed to share with us at the National Pain Report his decision making about whether to have spinal cord stimulation (SCS), he promised candor.

He’s lived up to that.

When we left him last week, he had decided to go ahead and have the surgery. He was confident that SCS would address his chronic sciatica which has drastically hindered his active lifestyle, but was raising concerns about whether it would address the advancing arthritic lower back issues that he’s been enduring.

He met with the Orthopedic Spine Surgeon to discuss the surgery yesterday, who, according to Meade, wants to do a thoracic MRI before surgery to determine placement of the leads. So the final surgery is now set for July 13.

Or is it?

As he said with characteristic humor, “pardon the double negative but I’m not deciding not to have the surgery yet, but I’ve been thinking more about the decision.”

Since deciding to go ahead with the surgery last week, he’s been thinking.

Here’s what he shared with us.

“Having had the weekend to think about everything combined with my appointment today leaves me with these thoughts. When I signed up for the trial period, the literature never mentioned the intricacies associated with the actual implant surgery. Primarily, they are cutting off the tip of one or two bones in the spine. Additionally, they have to cut through the back muscles to reach the spine. The first week or two post-op, recovery will be painful (Vicodin/Percocet painful). I am going with two weeks as we already determined I have a low pain threshold. It’s a total of six weeks (assuming no complications) before I can be active again.

 Secondly, I learned that most people having SCS surgery fall in the “acute” pain category. A far less number fall into the “improved/active lifestyle.” Going online to get feedback is probably counter-productive since there are some big-time horror stories out there.

So then what are my plans? I am going to have the MRI and continue to do research to verify or challenge my decision to have it done now (can always be at a later date). I still have the advancing arthritic lower back issues and need to research what surgical options are available.”

As Phil told me via email:

“Stay Tuned!”

For the previous installments of the Phil Meade’s thinking about the spinal cord stimulation surgery, click here for number one and then click here for number two.

Editor’s Note: As we mentioned before, Phil and I have known each for nearly 20 years. What I didn’t mention before and should have, is that he sees each of these articles before we publish to make sure they accurately portray his thinking.

Authored by: Ed Coghlan

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Fran Carwile at 4:34 pm

    My doctor has been pressuring me to have one placed. I am glad I didn’t do it.

  2. Diane Hamerling at 7:48 am

    I have a St. Jude Eon Mini SCS that was implanted January 2014 with paddle leads at T8/T9. Would I do it again? Yes, I can now walk again although I do fall sometimes because it has caused me to lose some feeling in my legs because of the paresthesia. When I go most places I use a walker to be safe. The placement of the paddle and cutting of the major back muscles has caused more problems, even a simple task like folding laundry can trigger major muscle spasms. I take more pain meds now than I did before. With all this being said, yes, I can walk again. So I traded one problem for another, yes, but I can walk. What the future will bring, I do not know. I can never again have an MRI. I have a failed fusion at L4/L5 and have been told I need another surgery at S1 but insurance doesn’t want to cover it. The insurance issue is another story. Phil, I hope you make the best decision for you. There are pros and cons. It is not a panacea to get the SCS implant, at least it wasn’t for me. Many friends I have made in FB groups have drastic improvement, many do not. I am 57 and have had to accept the new limitations and restrictions that have been placed on me. I am glad to read that you are doing ALL your research before you make the decision. It is critical to know what you are getting into and how it may or may not affect the rest of your life. All my best to you. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Catherine Pogorzelski at 2:40 pm

    Hi, Just read about your ordeal on National Pain report, if the MRI is WITH contrast you may also want to rethink that as well, check out http://www.gadoliniumtoxicity.com
    Even people having just ONE MRI with contrast are regaining the Gadolinium, then it is causing fibrosis and none of them have kideny disease to begin with!
    Have they done the HLAB27 blood test yet? I had sciatic pain low back pain etc for years starting in my late teens early twenties, it took until I was 55 years old for the right doctor to perform the right blood test (above) to determine i have Ankylosing Spondylitis! and it is NOT just in men, I am a woman!
    good luck I hope you make out well with hwatever you decide!
    PS My last MRI with gadolinium contrast was in 2009 and i tested Positive in high amounts up until this past year! do NTO let your doctor shame you into getting one either, it’s YOUR body, YOU make the decision!