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J Neurosurg Spine. 2006 Sep;5(3):191-203.

Complications of spinal cord stimulation, suggestions to improve outcome, and financial impact.

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Department of Surgery, Section of Neurosurgery, Regina General Hospital, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.



The long-term success of spinal cord stimulation is impeded by the high incidence of adverse events. The cost of complications to the healthcare budget is influenced by the time course needed to reverse the effect, and by the type of corrective measures required. Understanding the mechanism of complications and reducing them can improve the overall success rate and the cost factor.


The authors performed a retrospective analysis of data obtained in 160 patients treated during a 10-year period. For each category of complication, the level of healthcare resource use was assessed for each case and a unit cost was applied. The total cost of each complication was determined by summing across healthcare resource headings. All cost calculations were performed in Canadian dollars at 2005 prices. To understand the mechanics of various hardware-related complications and how to avoid them, the authors have utilized the results of bench tests conducted at Medtronic, Inc. Fifty-one adverse events occurred in 42 of the 160 patients. The complications were classified as either hardware related (39 events) or biological (12 events). The mean cost of complications during the 10-year study period was dollar 7092 (range dollar 130 - dollar 22,406).


Complications not only disrupt the effect of pain control but also pose an added expense to the already high cost of therapy. It is possible to reduce the complication rate, and thus improve the long-term success rate, by following the suggestions made in this paper, which are supported by the biomechanics of the human body and the implanted material.

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