MRI-safe Spinal Cord Stimulation

Heather Gelder had suffered with chronic back pain for years and had had four previous back operations before she became the first patient in the UK to have a MRI-safe stimulator implanted in February 2013.


The 54 year-old of Thirsk, North Yorkshire, can really feel the difference. She said “I’m really impressed with the relief this procedure has given me. It has made me a much happier and brighter person.

“I rate my pain at around 70% less than it was prior to the implant. I wish I could have had this years ago. It’s fantastic and what an honour it is to be the first patient in the UK to receive the MRI-safe stimulator.

“The best thing about the system though is that with a small hand-held electronic stimulator, which you place against the implanted sensor in your lower back, you are in control of your pain level.”

Dr Sam Eldabe, anaesthetist and pain specialist, carried out the implant of a new spinal cord stimulation system that is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compatible at The James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.

He is the first specialist in the UK to perform this procedure using a ‘SureScan’ technology system developed by Medtronic.

In the past, patients who have had a spinal cord stimulator fitted have been unable to have an MRI scan due to the high magnetic forces used in the scan and concerns about device safety. Medtronic has developed a system which is compatible with MRI scanners and allows patients with the device to have an MRI scan safely. This is done by turning the device into a ‘SureScan’ mode, similar to turning a mobile phone to ‘airplane mode’.

The procedure needs to be undertaken in two stages. Firstly the leads are implanted and then about a fortnight later the neurostimulator is implanted.

Dr Eldabe says there are significant benefits for the patient. He said “MRI scans are becoming the imaging investigation of choice in many illnesses; the fact that patients had to choose between long term pain relief or having MRI scans made spinal stimulators an imperfect solution for many patients. With the SureScan system patients no longer have to compromise particularly those with long term conditions requiring MRI scan surveillance”

Heather added “Dr Eldabe and the staff have been brilliant and very supportive and it has made me a much happier and brighter person.”