Neuromodulation – An Introduction

As director of interventional pain management and the Interventional Spine Center at Elliot Hospital, Dr. Brian Klagges performs a variety of procedures to relieve patients’ pain. In doing so, Brian Klagges, MD, draws on an in-depth knowledge of such advanced techniques as neuromodulation.

A treatment for intractable pain since the 1960s, neuromodulation uses implanted devices to manipulate nervous system activity. Many such devices are known as neurostimulators, which means that they work by altering the electrical impulses that govern the nervous system. One common such technique is spinal cord stimulation, which requires a surgeon to place an electrode in the body next to the spinal cord. This electrode generates a gentle current that blocks pain signals along the spinal cod.

Physicians may also place such electrodes along the sacral nerve, which is located in the pelvic area and responsible for many forms of pelvic pain. Intraspinal nerve root stimulation, which involves an electrode placed near the nerve root of the spine, addresses pain in the pelvic region as well as in the abdominal area. A final type, peripheral nerve stimulation, may offer relief for more distal processes.

There are also a number of neuromodulation processes that involve targeted medication delivery rather than nerve stimulation. These require the implantation of drug pumps rather than electrodes and allow for the deliver of significantly smaller doses. Such dosing may also reduce the likelihood of side effects, while potentially leading to more effective pain relief.

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