Spinal Cord Stimulation – Do I Make it Permanent?

Spinal Cord Stimulation - Do I Make it Permanent?

Phil Meade has agreed to share his observations as he goes through the decision making about having spinal cord stimulation. This is the second part of the story. Here’s a link to part one.

You know the saying that “Minor surgery is that which happens to someone else.”

That may have been what Phil Meade was thinking Monday morning.

We introduced you recently to Phil, a Utah man who made a decision to pursue spinal cord stimulation (SCS) to address his chronic sciatica issues which have hampered his lifestyle.

This week, Meade had his temporary system connected so he can find out how well he responds to neurostimulation before committing to an implanted system. That’s normal for SCS surgery.

Meade had to return to the surgeon the next day to have a lead replaced that he couldn’t reach himself.

His initial impressions so far are mixed.

He said he feels better and in fact walked longer the morning after the procedure than he has been able to in recent months. (He’s an avid walker and golfer so these are important lifestyle considerations).

But the because the temporary system is not implanted he had a restless evening because he could only sleep on his side.

And another thing - the procedure hurt more than he thought.

“Maybe my threshold for pain is lower than some, but I was really uncomfortable once the light anesthesia wore off, it went beyond “minor discomfort” as described in the brochure.”

Another is that he cannot take a shower with the temporary system.

“Sponge baths just aren’t cutting it,” he laughed.

He also is being asked to make a decision by Thursday whether to proceed with the full implant - only 4 days after the temporary system was connected.

“That’s faster than I thought it would be, but in reality it will be a couple of weeks before the implant can be scheduled, so I probably have more time,” he said.

Meade has been told by the doctor about 80% of SCS temporary implants are deemed to be successful in reducing pain and the patient opts for permanent implantation.

A couple of other things have him thinking.

“I may not be able to have an MRI,” he pointed out.  MRI fields, alone or in combination, may interact with and pose concerns for implanted neurostimulation systems.  Meade has been told that by mid-to-late summer, the FDA may grant approval for MRI’s for SCS patients. However, Meade believes the approval will be for the head and lower body only, not the back.

Other little things, like going through airport security, passing alarms at stores and those types of things that cause a spike to the stimulation level thereby causing a “jolt” to the body. Naturally, he was told it seldom happens.

But the major thing he’s working out is whether to have the implant procedure done is his back. Addressing the sciatica issue, which will allow him to return to his lifestyle with more vigor, is the reason he started the process. But developing arthritis in his back is also a problem that  may not be addressed by SCS.

Hopefully, by Thursday he will have an answer.

“That’s the decision I have to make. Do I have the implant done even though the arthritis may worsen in the months and years ahead.”?

Stay tuned for what Meade decides.

Here’s the St. Jude Medical Website on spinal cord stimulation.  Meade is considering having the St. Jude system implanted. 


Image courtesy of Medtronic.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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I am about to have the temporary one put in for my neck. I had my neck fussed in 2010 and I have been having more pain then before the surgery. I feel like I am being pressured into this. My Dr says (more or less) if I don’t I won’t get the medication’s that I have been on for the last 15 years. What do I do ? Please help me with any suggestions. Thank you.


Very good insight, Thomas. I also have lived with chronic pain for many years, 15 to be exact. I have researched SCSs & Intrathecal Pumps and agree that much time and care should be taken by patients before agreeing to either of these procedures. Don’t let doctors talk you into anything you are not comfortable with.

Thomas Bresnahan

i would like to “suggest” a couple of things. First in regards to the SCS implant, don’t get pressured into having one implanted on someone’s else’s schedule! This is a very important decision and needs serious thought and discussion. I spoke with a rep from Boston Scientific last week regarding SCS’s and upcoming changes. Their are a few new units coming to market in the next 10 months. These units use “burst” technology that mimics the central nervous system. The problem with many SCS units is the patient feels a very strong and constant vibration. I have done a trial on 2 different models.
They also are sending signals at a higher range, 10,000 hertz. This will eliminate the vibration feeling, in addition the leads are covering a larger area.
I learned from my first trial that the doctors that put these devices in get paid the full amount weather the person puts in the permenant device or not. I’m not sure if this has changed since that time, either way this is your body take your time. In regards to the suggestion of a pain pump. This again is a very serious decision. These pumps have many issues that you have to consider including the medication that’s going to be pumped into your body, getting the pump filled every month, issues with malfunctions including leaks or the pump not delivering the right quantity of medication. Again… This Is Your Body! This is Your Pain! Take the time to go into this with knowledge and the feeling that you are comfortable with YOUR decision! I have suffered with Adhesive Arachnoiditis for over 6 years I get very tired of people who have never experienced Chronic Pain offering their “Expert” opinion! Having something implanted into your body can cause all sorts of problems, there are risk! Talk to people who have had an SCS, those who it’s worked well and especially those whose device didn’t work!

Diane Succio

I too had the SCS implanted on November9,2015. I wasn’t prepared for the pain after the surgery, nor the fact that 4 months later I had to have another surgery to move the battery as it dislodged in my back. Now 1 month post that surgery my charger needs replacement already. Boy if I knew than what I know now, I definitely would NOT have had it done. Think long and hard before you do it. God Bless and wishing you peace.


Another option for Phil may be an intrathecal pain pump. I hear they are more effective than spinal cord stimulators.

Scott Mitchell

I had the ST.JUDES EON MINI in my back for 3 years.It seemed to help for first 6 months.The last 6 months it was basically off.My trial was good for 1 day and then a lead pulled out,so i turned it off.When the DR asked me did i get any relief ,i said yes …one day.Next question “Do you want it?” I was desperate for pain relief,and said yes.BIG ,BIG mistake.The fact that i could not get any more MRI s didn’t recall sink in,till i needed them.Then there was a recall on EON MINI so i had it removed so i could get MRIs,and try to get to bottom of my pain.The pain being removed was 10 fold of it being implanted .If you have any doubts,i would not do it.Never even got close to the CRPS in my lower leg and foot.I actually think it made my condition worse.