Reducing Opioid Use by Spinal Cord Stimulation

According to a new study, most patients took fewer pain medication after the implantation of a spinal cord Stimulation device. In this study funded by St. Jude Medical their Prodigy Spinal Cord Stimulation System showed that it is effective in treating chronic pain. After receiving the spinal cord stimulation device, the opioid use remained stable or was less than before.


The results lead the researchers to suggest spinal cord stimulation (SCS) to be preferred by physicians over more painkiller prescription for patients whose pain over time got worse. Obstructing pain messages traveling from the nerves to the brain, the small battery-powered transmitters provide signals through electrical wire implanted beside the spinal cord.

The opioid use from 5476 patients with SCS were compared to before and after implantation of the device. One year after implant, the study showed that of the patients continuing SCS therapy, 93% had lower everyday morphine-equivalent doses compared to patients who had their SCS device removed.


Principal researcher and neurosurgeon Ashwini Sharan, stated that patients had an enormous increase in their narcotic use one year before the implant. With the persons continuing with the SCS the dose decreased again afterwards tot the level of before the medication rise.


Unbelievable as it is, the relationship between pain relief narcotics and the implants has never been studied before. The researchers were unaware of which manufacturers’ SCS devices had been implanted in the patients. No funding is provided for further study


According to Sharan, Spinal Cord Stimulation is the last hope because after almost doubling the narcotic dosage within one year, the detachment off this dose takes much lost time.

The cost of a one year morphine prescription is normally $5,000 to which the costs of the side effects have to be added. A spinal cord stimulator averagely cost up to 4 times as much in 2015, depending on the model.


Hospitals tend to choose using the newer models and Sharan says to implant around 300 devices per year, including SCS. According to him he tries to emphasize the distinction between features and function of a device when addressing physicians.