Spinal cord stimulators apply a small electrical input via electrodes placed next to the spinal cord. They are surgically placed into the epidural space next to the spinal cord at a site that has been previously determined in a trial procedure to decrease pain. However, there is a high rate of movement of the electrodes, so they frequently migrate from the original place over the spinal cord. In complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) they have been reported to transiently decrease the pain. They do not prevent the spread of CRPS. There have been no Cochrane systematic reviews of spinal cord stimulators in amplified pain syndromes, but there was one done pertaining to their use in cancer related pain that concluded there was insufficient evidence for the use of spinal cord stimulators in treating refractory cancer related pain. In one study, seven children with amplified pain had spinal cord stimulators implanted; two had no benefit, one had an infection and the rest experienced benefit. In another report, six children had only mild improvement or worsening of their pain with the spinal cord stimulator.
Because this is a surgical procedure, there are many side effects possible, including some that are quite serious. Reported side effects include spinal fluid leakage, urinary retention, conversion disorder, panic attacks, priapism (prolonged erections), infection, skin cancer and paralysis. One patient had permanent neurological damage when the spinal cord stimulator was uncontrollably activated by an antitheft device at a store.
It has been argued that since most children do well with conventional therapies (exercise therapy and counseling) invasive therapies should be avoided.
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