07 Apr Epidural Stimulation Vs Neuromodulation for Pain Management: Know The Difference

Epidural Stimulation is the application of a continuous electrical current to the lower part of the spinal cord. A chip is implanted onto the lower side of the Spinal Cord, and a remote device is used to control the frequency and intensity of electric current flowing into the chip.

Sensory stimulations allow paralysed people to voluntarily move their lower limbs.

This type of stimulation is not used to reduce pain but rather to help patients regain the motor sensors.

The Epidural Stimulation effect is based on the capability of the spinal cord to process information on their own without being controlled from the brain. They respond to particular stimulus. The electrical current reactivates the spinal circuit to allow connection between the brain and the spinal cord to voluntarily control certain movements in the leg.

Benefits of Epidural Stimulation

Some of the benefits of Epidural Stimulation usually include:

  • Voluntary movement of the hips, legs, knees and toes with the stimulator on
  • Ability to bear own without or only minimal support with the stimulator on
  • Muscle mass growth
  • Improved bowel and bladder function
  • Improved sexual function
  • Improved body temperature regulation
  • Stabilised blood pressure

 

With Epidural Stimulation, our patients have experienced significant positive changes in their bodily functions after Epidural Stimulation. Depending on the location of the injury, the first rehabilitation milestones while being in our ward can be:

  • Ability to stand, provided the stimulator is activated
  • Ability to take steps, provided the stimulator is activated
  • Ability to stand, with minimal or no support
  • Ability to take steps using parallel bars for support

 

Neuromodulation for pain management on the other hand,  is a process where a stimulation is induced by a device that is implanted beneath the skin. This device is known as a Neurostimulator and it is mainly used to help alleviate patients from chronic pain. It delivers mild electric pulses to the epidural space near the spine through one or more electric wires called leads.

By so doing, it ‘outsmarts’ the brain by disrupting signals that are being passed between the spinal cord and the brain.

One can adjust the strength and location of the Neurostimulator to cater for the movement of pain, either as it intensifies or changes position by the use of a handheld controller. More advanced Neurostimulators automatically adjust stimulation depending one’s position.

A complete implantable Neuromodulation system includes the following parts:

  • Neurostimulator – This generates the electrical impulses. It is implanted under the skin, abdomen or the upper buttock.
  • Leads – These are the thin insulated medical wires that deliver electrical pulses to the epidural space near the spine.
  • Physician’s controller– This device allows the doctor to adjust system settings of the Neurostimulator.
  • Patient’s programmer – A handheld device allows the patient to customize stimulation within the settings that have been set by the doctor.

 

The Neuromodulation system is silent, and though it may be felt as a bump on the skin, it may not show through clothes.

It is important to keenly note that, as aforementioned, the main aim of Epidural Stimulation is to not only, hopefully and eventually help individuals walk again, but it’s purpose is to also provide sensory stimulation. This  in turn helps paralysed persons make voluntary movements, and undoubtedly improves their quality of life by a great margin.

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If you would like to know what we can do for you or a loved one using Epidural Stimulation, please contact us. Our expert Patient Representatives are always ready to help.

Source: Medtronic