Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a safe neuromodulatory treatment used to treat failed back surgery syndrome, chronic neuropathic pain, and complex regional pain syndrome. Despite its efficacy, some patients fail to achieve pain relief and elect to undergo removal of SCS paddle leads. The safety and best practices of these procedures have not been defined.
In this article, we describe our technique and complication rate in a series of SCS paddle removals.
All patients who underwent SCS paddle removal at the Albany Medical Center between 2011 and 2020 were identified. Medical charts were reviewed for demographic data, operative technique, and incidence of complications within 30 days of the procedure.
Thirty-two (91%) patients underwent a thoracic paddle removal, whereas 3 (9%) underwent a cervical paddle removal. All cases underwent preoperative imaging with computed tomography or MRI, and all cases were performed with neuromonitoring and fluoroscopy. The technique required for paddle removal depended on the extent of local scar formation and ranged from soft tissue dissection to additional laminectomy at an adjacent level. Cases took on average 2 ± 0.09 hours with 23.21 ± 4.29 cc blood loss. Two patients had superficial infections, which were cleared with 1 week of oral antibiotics. There were no other adverse events.
Thirty-five patients successfully underwent paddle removal with the minor complications reported. In this article, we show that by using neuromonitoring, fluoroscopy, and the techniques described, SCS paddle removal can be performed with minimal risk.