Getting a spinal cord stimulation (SCS) system

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You deserve to try it first

A SCS trial lets you test drive the pain treatment to help you know what to expect

There is a way you can try the SCS treatment using an external neurostimulator before you get the implant. During the trial, the neurostimulator (A) remains external, not implanted. Temporary leads (B) are placed near the nerves in your spinal cord. The handheld programmer (C) lets you adjust the therapy stimulation levels and turn stimulation on and off during your trial. 

Learn more about the trial

Trials can last up to 10 days. Then, you and your doctor will decide if you are a candidate to move forward with a smaller, long-term implanted SCS device.

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Medtronic Intellis spinal cord stimulation trialing system, including external neurostimulator, temporary leads, and wireless programmer

Download the CareGuidePro™ app

Once you and your doctor decide to proceed with the trial, the CareGuidePro™ app can help you navigate through your journey to find relief from chronic pain. The app is free.

Keeps you on track

  • View your upcoming appointments.
  • Track progress during your SCS trial.

Provides you with answers

  • Learn what happens before, during, and after your SCS trial and procedure.
  • Get access to frequently asked questions.

Connects you with real people

  • Send questions directly to your Medtronic team.
  • Notify your Medtronic team and clinic of your progress.

Getting an implant

What to expect during the procedure

Following a successful trial, you and your doctor will decide if a permanent implant is right for you. Different devices have different features. 

Similar to the trial procedure, you will have thin leads placed near your spinal cord. Then the neurostimulation device will be permanently implanted under your skin. The procedure is usually on an outpatient basis and takes about three hours. Recovery typically takes a few weeks.

Your neurostimulation system will not be turned on until you’ve recovered, so you won’t feel relief immediately after the procedure. Once your doctor turns the system on, you will work together to find the right stimulation level for you. You’ll have follow-up appointments about every six months.

Learn more about the implant procedure

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Living with a device

Understand day-to-day life with a neurostimulator

After the initial healing period, SCS treatment for pain relief will become a regular part of your day. The neurostimulator:

  • May not usually show through clothes
  • May be felt as a bump under your skin
  • Can be adjusted using a handheld therapy programmer

If your neurostimulator has AdaptiveStim™ technology, it automatically adjusts stimulation levels based on your preferred settings for different body positions.

If your neurostimulator has the closed-loop technology, which responds to changes in your body, it can provide consistent stimulation for personalized pain relief for any body positions you are in.

Overcoming chronic pain requires a commitment from you, including learning to use the SCS patient programmer. You may also need to use other pain treatments, such as physical therapy, to give yourself the best chance of success.

Getting an MRI

Medtronic systems permit MRI access

In the future, you may need magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose an illness. In fact, approximately 82% of patients with an implanted spinal cord stimulation system (SCS) are expected to need at least one MRI within five years2 of implant. But when you have an implanted device, MRI scans must be managed with care.

The good news is that patients with a Medtronic SCS system for chronic pain have the most full-body access to an MRI scan when proper safeguards are in place.

If you have an implanted Medtronic SCS system, be sure to notify the care provider that you have one. Download and follow the user guide and MRI instructions for your SCS system.

Recharging or replacing your device

Recharging your device

The Intellis™, Inceptiv™, and Restore™ SCS devices have rechargeable batteries.

If you have a rechargeable device, regular charging is important and will become part of your routine. When the low battery screen appears on either the therapy programmer or recharging application, it’s time to recharge. Higher stimulation settings may drain your battery faster than lower settings.

Replacing your device

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) systems are designed to last for several years before needing to be replaced.

Some neurostimulators have rechargeable batteries, while others have non-rechargeable batteries. The battery life of a recharge-free device depends on the model and individual use.

As the device nears the end of its battery life, you may begin seeing an ERI message screen. This tells you that the battery is low and should be replaced soon to continue therapy. Contact your provider to discuss next steps.

Contact us.

Have more questions? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Contact information

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MR Safety Triangle Under specific conditions. Talk to your doctor and refer to product labeling for full list of conditions. Patients with non-Medtronic leads and an EMBSNV20 adaptor extension are not eligible for an MRI.


Battery performance report D00810906 (Battery Life, Fade) - 29-Aug2022 Version A.


Desai MJ, Hargens LM, Breitenfeldt MD, et al. The rate of magnetic resonance imaging in patients with spinal cord stimulation. Spine. 2015;40(9):E531-7.