Practice Parameters for the Use of Spinal Cord Stimulation in the Treatment of Chronic Neuropathic Pain

Screening Trial

Does a screening trial provide valid patient selection information?

Because the SCS screening trial duplicates the definitive procedure (the therapeutic effects, side effects, and patient-control interface), it offers the most meaningful prognostic sign that SCS will succeed or fail.  A patient who reports sufficient and satisfactory pain relief during a screening trial of reasonable duration (see below) with stable or reduced analgesic use and a concordant stable or increased physical activity should be offered a permanent implant.  Thus, as its name implies, the screening trial fulfills both a screening and a trial function.

The screening trial also provides important information that will dictate the choice of electrode and stimulator to be implanted and the optimum stimulating configuration.

Medicare and many third-party payers require a successful screening trial before implantation.

Strength of recommendation Evidence source(s)/rationale
A = Recommended or required
Valid, useful, or non-negotiable
  • Weighing risk versus potential benefit and expert consensus reveals a high likelihood of a favorable outcome 
  • Medicare requirement