Cost of Adverse Events with Spinal Cord Stimulation

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a treatment method used to give patients long-term relief from pain caused by benign conditions. Quality of life and function are improved when chronic pain is under control.

Unfortunately, there is a 30 to 75 per cent rate of adverse events (AEs). There is a cost of those problems in terms of reducing success rate and increasing the total amount spent on health care. These are two reasons to find ways to improve the performance of SCS.

In this study Canadian researchers calculated the exact cost for 160 patients who had been treated with SCS in the last 10 years. Primary care and hospital costs were both included. The average cost of implanting each SCS, the cost of its upkeep every year, and the cost of any problems that come up were all added up.

Costs ranged from $130 up to $22,406 per patient. The average cost in Canada under the government health care program was $23,205. Routine annual maintenance was $3600. Costs were slightly higher for patients who wanted the implant taken out. This step was requested for many reasons but usually because of complications.

This was one of the first studies to look at costs associated with SCS. The authors point out the high rate of AEs and rising costs of those AEs. Total costs may be considerably under the U.S. fees due to the Canadian structure for assigning health care costs.

Improved technologies have already helped reduce the cost of complications from SCS. The authors propose additional measures that can be taken to further decrease the health care costs associated with this type of treatment.

For example, the implanted pulse generator is less likely to get displaced or shifted when put in the abdominal wall compared to the gluteal (buttock) region. Plastic anchors can be replaced with a soft silicone anchor if the plastic anchor is causing any discomfort.