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Neuromodulation. 2001 Jan;4(1):1-9. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1403.2001.00001.x.

Spinal cord stimulation for failed back surgery syndrome.

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Division of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina.



The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of modern spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for the treatment of failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS).


Thirty patients were treated with SCS between December 1992 and January 1998 for low back and radicular pain after multiple failed back surgeries. Permanent systems were implanted if trial stimulation led to > 50% pain reduction. Median long-term follow-up was 34 months (range, 6-66 months). Severity of pain was determined postoperatively by a disinterested third party.


Overall, 12 of the 16 patients (75%) who received permanent implants continued to report at least 50% relief of pain at follow-up. All six patients who underwent placement of laminectomy-styled electrode for SCS in the thoracic region had > 50% pain relief at long-term follow-up. Visual analog scores decreased an average of 3.2 (from 8.6 preoperatively to 5.4 postoperatively). Patients undergoing SCS placement via laminectomy in the thoracic region experienced an average decrease of 4.9 in VAS, whereas those who underwent percutaneous placement of thoracic leads had an average decrease of 2.5.


SCS is an effective treatment for chronic low back and lower extremity pain which is refractory to conservative therapy and which is not amenable to corrective anatomic surgery. Though our patient population is small, our results imply that the laminectomy-style electrodes in the thoracic region achieve better long-term effectiveness than percutaneous leads.

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