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You may be scheduled for Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) or Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) procedures or may simply be interested in knowing more about these, here you will find helpful information about these Boston Scientific’s therapies. The facts below are recommendations, and your healthcare teams should always be consulted. Our hope is that this guidance and information will help you feel informed and prepared through your journey in determining if SCS or RFA is right for you and how to make the most of these therapies.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
- Is SCS safe?
- Will I be totally pain-free with SCS?
- Will SCS allow me to be free of pain medications?
- Can one SCS system help me manage pain in more than one area?
- Can I trial the SCS system?
- Will it be visible under my skin? Will I feel the implant?
- When can I resume my usual activity after the procedure?
- How long will my Spinal Cord Stimulation and battery last?
- Is SCS is reversible?
Living with SCS
Managing your therapy
- Can I control the SCS therapy?
- Do I use my SCS system 24 hours a day?
- How often will I need to recharge the implant battery?
- How convenient is it to recharge the implant battery?
- Can I get scans, including x-rays or MRIs, with this system?
- I heard about different SCS therapies. Can I have them all?
- Who do I contact if I have a problem with my SCS system?
Day to day
- Can I drive with my SCS therapy on?
- Will I set off store security detectors or be tracked in some way?
- Should I do anything differently when going through airport security?
- Can I scuba dive or use a hyperbaric chamber with my SCS system?
- What happens if I lose my external component, remote or charger?
- I have joined an online patient forum. Is all information correct?
What to expect
What’s the difference between a GP and a Pain Management Specialist and why does it matter for people with chronic pain?
Pain Management Specialists are doctors who specialise in treating chronic pain. These physicians receive years of advanced, specialised training in pain management and focus on treating patients with severe pain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
Is SCS safe?
SCS Therapy has been proven safe and effective in clinical studies. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have been treated with SCS. Prior to the surgery, your physician will outline the risks of the surgery and ask for your consent. This is a normal part of the process. SCS systems are CE-Marked for adults with chronic pain of the low back and limbs.
Will I be totally pain-free with SCS?
People differ in the amount of pain relief they receive with SCS therapy. SCS is not a cure for chronic pain but it is a therapy that will help you manage your symptoms. SCS is generally considered effective if your pain is reduced by at least 50% and/or if your quality of life increases, including improved sleep, better mood and reduction of medicines.1,2
Will SCS allow me to be free of pain medications?
Every person differs in how they respond to SCS therapy. For some patients, SCS therapy is so effective that pain medications could be no longer needed. For others, success with the therapy can lead to a reduction in pain medication. Always consult your doctor before changing your medication dosage.
Can one SCS system help me manage pain in more than one area?
Every patient is different so this will depend on your condition and on what your physicians decides is the best course of action. Some patients may be able to use their remote to change therapy in specific pain regions, while others may only use it to change the overall area.
Can I trial the SCS system?
Not all pain centres are the same as they may have different pathways, including or excluding trials. It depends on where you will be treated and the practice there. Please discuss with your pain management centre.
Will it be visible under my skin?
Will I feel the implant?
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to see the device under your skin. Our SCS systems feature contoured, oval shapes and are small. Most patients report that they can feel the unit by pressing on their skin. In most cases, it is not visible to others.
When can I resume my usual activity after the procedure?
For several weeks after the implant procedure, you will be asked to restrict your physical activity. Once that period is over, SCS systems are designed to help you lead a healthy and active lifestyle. However, you should always consult your physician before resuming activity after surgery or before engaging in physical activities.
How long will my Spinal Cord Stimulation and battery last?
This completely depends on the system you have and if it is rechargeable. A rechargeable device can last up to 12 years. A non-rechargeable device can last between 1-7 years depending on the therapy’s settings and your personal usage.*
Is SCS is reversible?
Yes. Even though your leads and IPG are surgically implanted, they can be disengaged or removed by your doctor, if ever needed.
How long does it take to recover from the procedure?
The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis. Most patients are allowed to return home with few restrictions as soon as the effects of the local anesthesia dissipate.
If I don’t like RFA, can I have a different procedure down the road?
If your pain returns due to nerve regeneration and you choose not to undergo RFA again, you should be able to try another pain management method. Be sure to discuss this decision with your doctor first.
Living with SCS
Managing your therapy
Can I control the SCS therapy?
Yes. SCS system’s remote control lets you turn stimulation on and off, increase and decrease the level of stimulation, and change between the programs customized by your physician specifically for you.
Do I use my SCS system 24 hours a day?
The decision is yours about when to use SCS therapy and how much to use. Some SCS systems have rechargeable battery technology and are designed so that you can keep it on for 24 hours a day. Other SCS systems are not rechargeable and you may wish to use it for only part of the day to extend the longevity of the implant. However, you should always consult your doctor about how to best use your SCS therapy.
How often will I need to recharge the implant battery?
Need of recharging varies depending on the therapy’s settings and your personal usage. You decide on a recharging schedule that best fits your needs and your usage of the device. Most people choose to charge based on a routine that fits into their lifestyle, like during their favourite weekly TV show or daily for shorter cycles during breakfast.
How convenient is it to recharge the implant battery?
Depending on the system you have the charging process may differ. With the wireless technology systems, recharging the implant battery is designed to be very simple. The charger is lightweight, wireless, and portable, so you can charge on the go. To help place the charger over the device you can use either soft cloth belt (included with the charger kit) or medical bi-adhesive tape.
Can I get scans, including x-rays or MRIs, with this system?
SCS patients have many imaging options. Commonly used methods such as X-Rays, CT Scans, PET Scans and Ultrasounds can image many different parts of the body, including soft tissue. Moreover, some SCS systems offer full body MRI conditionality under specified conditions. SCS systems have varying limitations and conditions related to MRI scans. Talk to your doctor to find out which option is right for you.
I heard about different SCS therapies. Can I have them all?
Your therapy is chosen depending on your specific condition, associated symptoms and the system with which you have been implanted. Your physician may decide to give you multiple different therapies, for example one that generates a tingling sensation (paraesthesia), ones that do not (sub-perception options) or multiple ones running at the same time. Please remember that patients can respond to the therapies in different ways and therefore it is not possible to make a direct comparison with other patients.
Who do I contact if I have a problem with my SCS system?
For any problem with your SCS system contact directly your Pain Specialist and their team. Most centres will have a direct phone line or email address. Not all Accident and Emergency departments will know details on SCS, so only attend these in case of an emergency.
Day to day
Can I drive with my SCS therapy on?
Patients using therapy that generates paraesthesia should not operate motorized vehicles such as automobiles or potentially dangerous machinery and equipment with the stimulation on. Stimulation must be turned off first in such cases. For therapy that does not generate paraesthesia (i.e. sub-perception therapy) it is less likely that sudden stimulation changes resulting in distraction could occur while stimulation is on. Therefore, sub-perception therapies can be used while driving.
Will I set off store security detectors or be tracked in some way?
It is highly unlikely that you will set off store security detectors and your location cannot be tracked by using this device. In the very unlikely chance that a security detector is set off, you can show your patient ID card, which is provided to you on the day of implant, which will outline that you have a medical device implanted.
Should I do anything differently when going through airport security?
Patients should request assistance to bypass the security scans and advise the security staff that they have an implanted medical device. You can show your patient ID card, which is provided to you on the day of implant, that will prove that you have an implanted medical device. If patients must pass through the security scans, they should turn off stimulation, move through the security screener quickly and stay as far as allowed from the scan doors.
Can I scuba dive or use a hyperbaric chamber with my SCS system?
Boston Scientific does not support the use of a hyperbaric chamber or scuba diving with their SCS system. Some pressure-related functional testing has been performed for the SCS systems but no specific tests have been performed with these devices inside a human body during/after a scuba diving activity. There is no guarantee that these devices will operate as intended or that there will be no harm to a patient during/after these environmental conditions.
What happens if I lose my external component, remote or charger?
The hospital may not cover costs of the replacement for a damaged or lost external component. Most centres recommend to put these two pieces of equipment on your house insurance. Ask your pain specialist team for more recommendations.
I have joined an online patient forum. Is all information correct?
Please be aware that online patient forums are NOT official sites and are therefore not monitored by any pain centres or SCS system manufacturers. For any issue or concern with your SCS system always consult your pain specialist team. Moreover, keep in mind that pain patients may have different symptoms and may have been implanted with different systems, so you will not be able to make a direct comparison.
* The battery is dependent on the stimulation settings and conditions.
1 Fontaine D. Spinal cord stimulation for neuropathic pain. Rev Neurol (Paris). 2021 Sep;177(7):838-842.
2 van Heteren EPZ, van Roosendaal BWP, van Gorp EJAA, Bronkhorst EM, Kallewaard JW, Wegener JT, Bürger K, Teernstra OPM, Buschman HPJ, Hamm-Faber TE, Vissers KCP. Spinal Cord Stimulation With Additional Peripheral Nerve/Field Stimulation vs Spinal Cord Stimulation Alone on Back Pain and Quality of Life in Patients With Failed Back Surgery Syndrome. Neuromodulation. 2022 Jan 26:S1094-7159(21)06943-9.
3 Sam J, Catapano M, Sahni S, Ma F, Abd-Elsayed A, Visnjevac O. Pulsed Radiofrequency in Interventional Pain Management: Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Action - An Update and Review. Pain Physician. 2021 Dec;24(8):525-532.
4 Michaud K, Cooper P, Abd-Elsayed A, Kohan L. Review of Radiofrequency Ablation for Peripheral Nerves. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2021 Oct 7;25(10):63.
CAUTION: The law restricts these devices to sale by or on the order of a physician. Indications, contraindications, warnings, and instructions for use can be found in the product labelling supplied with each device or at www.IFU-BSCI.com. Products shown for INFORMATION purposes only and may not be approved or for sale in certain countries. This material not intended for use in France.