Rate of Complications Following Spinal Cord Stimulation Paddle Electrode Removal

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Abstract

Objective:

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a safe, reversible surgical treatment for complex regional pain syndrome and failed back surgery syndrome refractory to conventional medical management. Paddle electrodes are routinely used for the permanent implant because of the reduced risk of migration, lower energy requirements, and expanded coverage options. The risks associated with paddle lead removal are not well defined in the literature.

Methods:

We retrospectively reviewed the outcomes of all patients at the Cleveland Clinic who underwent removal of SCS paddle electrodes between 2009 and 2016.

Results:

We identified 68 patients during this interval who had a paddle electrode removed. The most common reason for removal was loss of coverage or effect (75%), followed by infection (13.24%), and the need for magnetic resonance imaging for diagnostic purposes (8.82%). Postoperative complications occurred in eight patients (11.75%), two of which were classified as major (2.94%). One of these patients developed a postoperative cerebrospinal fluid leak, and another suffered a large suprafascial hematoma. Both patients underwent reoperation. Minor complications were reported in six patients (8.82%) and included wound dehiscence, infection, and prolonged ileus in one case. On average, patients who developed complications lost 20 mL more blood during surgery than those who did not develop complications (p = 0.006).

Conclusion:

One of the benefits of SCS therapy is the reversibility of the procedure. However, removal is not without some risk though the overall risk of minor or major complication is low. Patients who are considering removal should be counseled appropriately. Prophylactic removal is not recommended. However, when removal is needed, surgeons and pain specialists must be familiar with these complications and their management.

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