Complications of epidural spinal stimulation: lessons from the past and alternatives for the future

Giuliano Taccola, Sean Barber, Phillip J. Horner, Humberto A.Cerrel Bazo, Dimitry Sayenko

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Study design: Systematic review. Objectives: Over the past decade, an increasing number of studies have demonstrated that epidural spinal cord stimulation (SCS) can successfully assist with neurorehabilitation following spinal cord injury (SCI). This approach is quickly garnering the attention of clinicians. Therefore, the potential benefits of individuals undergoing epidural SCS therapy to regain sensorimotor and autonomic control, must be considered along with the lessons learned from other studies on the risks associated with implantable systems. Methods: Systematic analysis of literature, as well as preclinical and clinical reports. Results: The use of SCS for neuropathic pain management has revealed that epidural electrodes can lose their therapeutic effects over time and lead to complications, such as electrode migration, infection, foreign body reactions, and even SCI. Several authors have also described the formation of a mass composed of glia, collagen, and fibrosis around epidural electrodes. Clinically, this mass can cause myelopathy and spinal compression, and it is only treatable by surgically removing both the electrode and scar tissue. Conclusions: In order to reduce the risk of encapsulation, many innovative efforts focus on technological improvements of electrode biocompatibility; however, they require time and resources to develop and confirm safety and efficiency. Alternatively, some studies have demonstrated similar outcomes of non-invasive, transcutaneous SCS following SCI to those seen with epidural SCS, without the complications associated with implanted electrodes. Thus, transcutaneous SCS can be proposed as a promising candidate for a safer and more accessible SCS modality for some individuals with SCI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1049-1059
Number of pages11
JournalSpinal Cord
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Complications of epidural spinal stimulation: lessons from the past and alternatives for the future'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this