PNS was invented in the mid-1960s. Starting in 2012, a number of therapeutic devices that stimulate peripheral nerves or that provide peripheral nerve field stimulation received regulatory approval to treat neurological pain.
What is Peripheral Nerve Stimulation?
Peripheral nerve stimulation, frequently referred to as PNS, is a commonly used approach to treat chronic pain. It involves a procedure that places a small electrical device (a wire-like electrode) next to one of the peripheral nerves, which are the nerves that are located beyond the brain or spinal cord. The electrode delivers rapid electrical pulses that may felt like mild tingles (so-called paresthesias), but are usually not felt at all (paresthesia-free).
How does the process work?
We start by conducting a neuropsychological examination, to ensure that the patient understands how the system works and is capable of participating with the therapy. Then we start with a trial run to test your response to temporary electrodes that we place along the length of the offending peripheral nerve.
During the testing period (trial), the electrode is connected to an external device. At the end of the trial, the electrodes are removed. If it works, then we place permanent electrodes at the nerve site. Similar to heart pacemakers, electricity is delivered to the nerve or nerves using one or several electrodes. Once the stimulator is in place, the electrical pulse settings are customized to provide the highest level of pain relief.
An external wearable battery device is used to power the electrodes. These batteries can be easily exchanged when they become inoperable. The patient is able to control stimulation by turning the device on and off and adjusting stimulation parameters as needed.
This procedure is minimally invasive, usually taking less than an hour. It is usually performed under sedation with local anesthesia, on an outpatient basis. PNS is an extremely safe procedure and has been used since the 1960s to treat chronic pain.
What is Peripheral Nerve Stimulation used for?
Peripheral nerve stimulation is used most often after other pain treatment options have failed to provide sufficient relief. Peripheral nerve stimulators may be used to treat or manage different types of chronic pain, including:
PNS has a very high success rate and the results are almost immediate. In the rare case that the device isn’t working correctly and needs to be removed, this can be done very easily. The implant is placed just beneath the skin, making implantation and removal a minimally invasive process.