The Benefits and Risks of Implanted Devices

The use of implanted devices such as the implanted drug infusion pump and the spinal cord stimulation pump require a big commitment by the patient both in time commitment and a commitment to other back pain therapies in order to maximize the benefits of the treatment. Both types of implanted devices will require a commitment to several appointments to be evaluated for the procedure, test trials of a temporary device, a second surgical procedure to implant a permanent device, and continued visits either to recharge the battery of the pump or to refill the medication in the pump. As long as the patients are being treated with one of these two types of implanted devices, they will need to continue a lifestyle that involves close medical supervision and time available for frequent medical visits. Patients are also expected to be committed to other lifestyle modifications that promote back health or healing of back problems, such as diet changes, exercises specifically geared towards strengthening of the back or core muscles, and physical therapy if the doctor considers it appropriate. Though the back pain treatments involving implanted devices may work on their own, patients are more likely to receive benefits from them when they are used in conjunction with other conservative back pain treatments.

Risks: Generally, this procedure is considered safe, and the risks are rare and minor when they do occur. Nevertheless, the procedure does involve multiple surgeries and the implantation of a foreign object in the body. For this reason, patients will be wise to take caution to at least weight benefits against the risks before moving forward with this form of treatment. the risks involved with these procedures include possible infection of the injection site and in the case of a drug infusion, drug side effects. Though the implanted devices that deliver medicine do so in low doses, patients may experience adverse reactions to certain drugs even in low doses.

Benefits: There are many available treatments for back pain out there, and these don't even include the hundreds of alternative therapies that may be available to you:
  • OTC Drugs. Over the counter drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen sodium, and other NSAIDS
  • NSAIDS that may be available by prescription only
  • PT: Physical Therapy
  • Manipulative medicine (chiropractic, manual adjustments by an osteopath doctor)
  • TENS
  • Acupuncture
  • Muscle Relaxants
  • Oral Analgesics/Narcotics
  • Nerve Blocks
  • Surgery
  • Implantable Infusion therapy
  • Spinal cord Stimulation

Of all the treatments that are available to patients, the last two available treatments listed, implantable infusion therapy and spinal cord stimulation are usually considered after one or all of the other treatments have been attempted and failed. Why? Is it because the risks associated with the procedure are so high, or because of the low success rates associated with these procedures? Neither of these conditions is the case because the risks associated with the implanted systems are relatively low, and there is a good likelihood of some degree of pain relief. One of the reasons that doctors may be reluctant to prescribe/insert the pain pump is because the device won't provide a treatment towards the underlying problem; it will only treat the symptom of pain itself.