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What is Dorsal Column Stimulator?

The dorsal column stimulator (DCS) or spinal column stimulator is a device that relieves chronic pain associated with spinal nerves through electrical stimulation. It is used to treat chronic disabling pain such as failed back surgery syndrome and complex regional pain syndrome, which show little or no improvement with other treatments such as medication or surgery. DCS acts either by blocking the pain impulse pathway or by stimulating the production of endorphins (chemical substances produced by the body that decrease the sensation of pain).

How is the Procedure of Dorsal Column Stimulator Performed?

A dorsal column stimulator consists of electrodes, a battery-operated pulse generator, a remote control device and connecting wires. Depending on the location of your pain, the electrodes are placed in the neck, upper or lower back region of the spinal cord. This is done either surgically or through the skin under radiographic guidance. The remaining components are connected externally. Electrical impulses are generated at the pulse generator by remote control and are transmitted to the electrodes.

What are the Associated Risks and Complications of Dorsal Column Stimulator?

The procedure is usually safe, but may be associated with certain risks including change in electrode position, breakage, battery failure, bleeding, infection and development of tolerance.

Dorsal column stimulators do not treat the underlying cause of pain, but with its use, the intensity, frequency and duration of pain are usually reduced, lowering the need for pain medication and sometimes surgery.