Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery

Understanding Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery, Risks and Recovery

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery in Birmingham and Hoover, Alabama

If your chronic back pain has failed to improve with traditional treatment methods like medication and physical therapy, a spinal cord stimulator implant may be a solution for you. Southlake Orthopaedics is a multi-specialty orthopedic practice that offers this procedure, along with other specialized orthopedic services. Located in Hoover and Birmingham-Grandview and serving central Alabama, Southlake Orthopaedics is here to help you experience less pain and more living. Here, our team shares more information about spinal cord stimulation and how it could be the best treatment for you.

What Is Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery?

A spinal cord stimulator implant surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that is often used to help treat chronic pain that is resistant to other treatments. The surgery consists of placing a spinal cord stimulator implant inside your body that sends low levels of electricity directly to the spinal cord. This process helps relieve pain and disrupt pain signals, so the brain doesn’t receive them. The electrical pulse from an implant is mild and the patient usually won’t feel it. Some implants use a light, tingling sensation called paresthesia to replace the sensation of pain.

Conditions That Can Be Treated With Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery

A spinal cord stimulator implant is mostly used to treat chronic pain that hasn’t been relieved by other treatment methods. Chronic pain can be caused by a variety of conditions and affects different areas of the body. Spinal cord stimulation is most suitable for injuries to the nerve, which cause chronic pain. It can be used to treat:

  • Back pain or failed back surgery syndrome
  • Post-surgical pain
  • Nerve-related pain
  • Complex regional pain syndrome


Chronic pain in any area of the body can affect your day-to-day life, impacting your energy level, sleep, mood, and health. If you experience chronic pain, ask your doctor if a spinal cord stimulator implant could help relieve it.

What to Expect During the Procedure

Spinal cord stimulator implants are made up of thin wires called electrodes and a small battery pack called the generator. The electrodes are implanted between the spinal cord and the vertebrae in the epidural space, and the generator is placed under the skin, typically near the abdomen or buttocks. There is also a corresponding remote control and antenna outside the body that the patient uses to control the device. When they feel pain, they use the remote to send the electrical impulses that help relieve their pain.

The process of spinal cord stimulation involves two procedures, one to test the device (trial) and another to place it (implantation). Southlake’s spine specialists collaborate with pain management providers to implement the trial phase. Once trial is completed, a surgeon will perform the implantation phase.


The trial is to determine if the device works well enough to be permanently implanted. Temporary electrodes are inserted for about a week, while the generator is outside the body. The patient can try out the implant and see if they experience a decrease in pain. If the patient notices a 50 percent or greater reduction in pain level, the trial is considered successful and implantation will follow. If the implant doesn’t provide sufficient pain relief, it can be removed easily.


The implantation is usually an outpatient procedure in which the implant will be permanently inserted into the body. The surgeon will make two incisions, one near the waist to insert the generator and one along the spine to place the electrodes. The sterile electrodes will replace the trial electrodes and be sutured into place along the spine. Once the surgeon connects the two and ensures they’re working together, they will close the incisions.

Man holding his lower back in pain

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery Risks

Spinal cord stimulation has many advantages for chronic pain patients, but it doesn’t come without risks. These include:

  • Infection
  • Leads moving out of position or malfunctioning
  • Generator failure
  • Gradual decrease in pain relief


Since this procedure depends on the implantation of equipment, it can cause more problems than surgeries without implants. This is one of the reasons spinal cord stimulation isn’t a first-line procedure, although it can be very beneficial for patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain.

Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery Recovery

The recovery from spinal cord implantation is fairly mild and most patients go home the same day as their procedure. Some pain at your incision sites is normal and they will typically heal within two to four weeks of surgery. Discuss your recovery plan, wound care, and activity limitations with your doctor to make sure you understand everything. Also, be sure to attend your follow-up appointments so your doctor can check your incision sites and adjust your generator if needed.

Why Choose Southlake Orthopaedics for Spinal Cord Stimulator Implant Surgery?

At Southlake Orthopaedics, we provide personalized and compassionate care for every patient, using the most advanced medical technology available. We specialize in orthopedics, and our medical team includes expertise in every orthopedic specialty. With locations in Hoover and Birmingham-Grandview, we are conveniently located for patients in central Alabama.

Find Advanced Surgical Care for Spine Conditions and Injuries at Southlake Orthopaedics

Get your life back from chronic back pain with a spinal cord stimulator implant. This minimally invasive procedure can improve your quality of life and overall health and decrease your dependence on pain medication. Southlake Orthopaedics is a multi-specialty orthopedic practice providing complete orthopedic services from diagnosis to recovery in central Alabama. Contact us today to learn more about a spinal cord stimulator implant.