Get the answers you need

about Spinal Cord Stimulation Systems
and Radiofrequency Ablation

Whether you are a considering SCS or RFA, are in the process of getting it, here you will find helpful information about Boston Scientific Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) systems and Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA).

The facts below are for you to consider and discuss with your physician. Our hope is that this guidance and information will help you feel informed and prepared at the various steps of your journey in determining if SCS or RFA is right for you.

Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS):

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Is SCS safe?
No surgery is 100% safe but SCS Therapy has been proven safe and effective in clinical studies. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have been treated with SCS. But of course, you should review the risks of the therapy with your physician. SCS systems are CE-Marked for adults with chronic pain of the trunk and/or lower limbs (low back and legs).
Will I be totally pain-free with SCS?
People differ in the amount of pain relief they receive with SCS therapy. The trial, or test drive, may help you determine the amount of relief you will receive. SCS is generally considered effective if your pain is reduced by at least 50%.
Will SCS allow me to be free of pain medications?
Every person differs in how effective SCS therapy is for them. For some patients, SCS therapy works well enough that pain medications are no longer needed. For others, success with the therapy can mean using less pain medication. Always consult your doctor before changing your medication dosage.
Can I get diagnostic imaging 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. Some SCS systems offer full body MRI compatability 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. Learn about imaging options »
Can one SCS system help me manage pain in more than one area?
Some SCS systems are designed to cover several pain areas at the same time if needed. You can use your wireless remote control to adjust the amount of stimulation for each pain area.
Do I use my SCS system 24 hours a day?
It's up to you 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. However, you should always consult your doctor first.
Will it be visible under my skin? Will I feel the implant?
No. You will not be able to see the device under your skin. Unless you tell someone you have it, they'd never know. Our SCS systems feature contoured, oval shapes and are small. Your doctor can position it in the most comfortable and convenient location for you. Some patients report that they can feel the unit by pressing on their skin. In many cases, it is not visible to others.
Can I actually 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 target different pain areas using settings or programs customized by your physician specifically for you.
How long will my spinal cord stimulator and battery last?
This completely depends on the sysytem you have and if it is rechargeable. A non-rechargeable device can last between 1-5 years. A rechargeable device can last up to 25 years.
How often will I need to recharge the implant battery?
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 their lifestyle, like during their favorite weekly TV show.
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. Either an adhesive patch or soft cloth belt (included with the charger) can be used to help place the charger over the device.
Will I set off store security detectors or be tracked in some way?
No. You could think of the device similarly to a pacemaker. You will NOT set off store security detectors. Also, your location cannot be tracked by using this device.
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.
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.
What's the difference between a primary care doctor and a Pain Management Specialist and why does it matter for people with chronic pain?
Pain Management Specialists are physicians 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. Find a Pain Management Specialist »
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The SCS Trial

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Can I test drive SCS first?
For people who now manage their chronic pain with SCS therapy, the first step was a trial, which is a test drive of an SCS system. This allows you to try out a system first to experience it firsthand, so you and your specialist can decide if it is right for you.
How many days does the test drive last?
If your doctor recommends SCS for your pain condition, you can try out a temporary system before final implantation. The test drive lasts on average 3 to 7 days (may be shorter or longer). In this testing time, and at its conclusion, you and your physician can decide if spinal SCS therapy helps manage your pain. If it does, you can move forward with the implanted system. If it doesn't, you simply have the trial system removed. Remember that the beauty of the test drive is you'll know first-hand if SCS is right for you before making any commitment.
What about the trial procedure? How long does it take?
The trial starts with an outpatient procedure conducted at the surgery center and usually takes 1 to 2 hours. Then, over the next 3 to 7 days (may be shorter or longer), you are able to see if the SCS system works for you in helping manage your pain.
Will I have any limitations during the test drive?
Yes. Unlike the long-term implant, the temporary system has external components. Because of the external components, there are some precautions you'll need to take. Your physician will go over all these with you, but some general things to know are this:
  • You will need to keep the system dry — so bathing or showering cannot be done during the test drive. Prepare for this prior by showering the morning of the procedure.
  • Avoid activities and positions that could pull your leads out of place.
  • Consider keeping a journal over the next week to evaluate the therapy. Note any new things you're able to do and also how you're sleeping. Go about your daily activities and take notice of how you're feeling and the things you may be able to do that you weren't before.

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

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Is RFA safe?
Yes. Radiofrequency ablation is a well-established drug-free treatment that has been clinically proven to provide safe, effective, lasting relief from your chronic pain.
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.
How long does RFA last?
Studies show that more than 70% of RFA patients experience relief lasting anywhere from six to 12 months, and in some cases, years.
If my pain comes back, can I have the RFA procedure again?
Your pain could return if the treated nerves regenerate. If this happens, the procedure can be repeated.
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.