How are Spinal Cord Stimulators Different from Peripheral Nerve Stimulators?


How Are Spinal Cord Stimulators and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators Similar?

  • Peripheral nerve stimulators (PNS) and spinal cord stimulators (SCS) both make use of small devices that administer a mild electrical current. Each of these surgically implanted electrotherapy devices is connected to one or more wire leads, and these are positioned near nerve pathways that frequently carry pain signals.
  • A local anesthetic is administered, and the pain management specialist guides the placement of wires using ultrasound images. They are inserted into the body through a needle, and mild electrical signals from the stimulator help block normal pain signals traveling through the nerve.
  • Initially, the system is often implemented on an outpatient trial basis at a pain clinic and requires the patient to use an external wearable stimulator device weighing roughly one ounce. About the size of a matchbox, this device allows the patient to adjust the level of stimulation and customize it as desired. The trial typically lasts approximately one week.
  • Upon successful trial completion, the device may be permanently implanted under the skin.
  • Many patients experience a pain reduction of at least 50%.


How Are Spinal Cord Stimulators and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators Different?

  • The key difference between Peripheral Nerve Stimulators and Spinal Cord Stimulators is the placement of wire leads. PNS leads may be placed near peripheral nerves in different areas of the body, typically over the painful area. SCS leads are always positioned near the spinal cord, where pain signals are generated. More specifically, spinal cord stimulator leads are placed in the epidural space in which the spinal cord resides.
  • These two treatments are generally not used together.
  • Additionally, spinal cord stimulators are intended for chronic pain, while peripheral nerve stimulators may be used for pain which is chronic or acute.