Epidural Stimulation is the application of a continuous electrical current to the lower part of the spinal cord. A chip is implanted onto the side of the patient’s spinal cord, and a remote device is used to control the frequency and intensity of electrical current flowing into the chip.
Sensory stimulations allow paraplegics and quadriplegics to voluntarily move their lower limbs.
This type of stimulation is not used to reduce pain, but rather to help patients regain motor function.
The Epidural Stimulation effect is based on the capability of the spinal cord to process information on its own without being controlled from the brain. It responds to stimuli like electrical currents which reactivate the spinal circuit from the brain to the spinal cord to voluntarily control certain movements in the limbs.
Benefits of Epidural Stimulation
Patients experience a range of effects, including:
- Voluntary movement of the hips, legs, knees, and toes (when the stimulator is on)
- Ability to bear their own weight with minimal support (when the stimulator is on)
- Increased muscle mass
- Improved bowel and bladder function
- Improved sexual function
- Improved body temperature regulation
- Stabilised blood pressure
After the Epidural Stimulation procedure, our patients have experienced significant positive changes in their bodily functions. Depending on the location of their injury, the first rehabilitation milestones post surgery are usually:
- Ability to stand unassisted (when the stimulator is on)
- Ability to stand with minimal support
- Ability to take steps unassisted (when the stimulator is on)
- Ability to take steps with parallel bars for support
Neuromodulation for pain management on the other hand, is a process where stimulation is induced by a device implanted beneath the skin. This device is known as a Neurostimulator and it is mainly used to help alleviate chronic pain. It delivers mild electrical 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 brain and spinal cord.
One can adjust the strength and location of the Neurostimulator to account for changes in pain, either as it intensifies or moves, by the use of a handheld controller. More advanced Neurostimulators automatically adjust stimulation depending on the patient’s body position.
A complete implantable Neuromodulation system includes the following parts:
- Neurostimulator – This generates the electrical impulses. It is implanted under the skin, abdomen, or upper buttocks.
- 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 fine tune the 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 will not show through one’s clothes.
It is important to note that the main aim of Epidural Stimulation is to not only help individuals walk again, but to also provide sensory stimulation. This in turn helps paralysed people make voluntary movements, and undoubtedly improves their quality of life.
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.