Qualitative exploration of psychological factors associated with spinal cord stimulation outcome

Elizabeth Sparkes*, Rui Duarte, Jon H. Raphael, Elaine Denny, Robert L. Ashford

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
184 Downloads (Pure)


Background and aim: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a last resort treatment for chronic pain consisting of an implantable pulse generator connected to leads placed in the epidural space of the spinal cord. Effective in reducing chronic pain, however, efficacy has been found to decrease over time. Psychological factors affecting outcome of SCS have been investigated through quantitative methods, but these have failed to provide confident predictors. We aimed to investigate via a qualitative approach, the experience of SCS following 1 year of therapy.Methods: Thirteen chronic non-cancer pain participants were interviewed. All participants had been trialled with SCS. The majority had gone on to full implantation with varying degrees of pain relief. Thematic analysis was employed to analyse the data from the interviews.Results: Interviews resulted in findings that previous quantitative studies had failed to uncover. Two emergent core themes surfaced: 'coping with pain' and 'SCS treatment'. The effect of emotion upon coping was recurrent. Participants divided the SCS experience into information provision, independence and unexpected experiences.Conclusion: The findings provide context for the patients' experience of SCS. This research suggests that improved preparation prior to SCS including information provision, CBT and contact with expert patients may be of value.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-251
Number of pages13
JournalChronic illness
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic pain
  • efficacy
  • psychological factors
  • qualitative analysis
  • spinal cord stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Health Policy


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