Retrograde cervical open trial

This is a 68 year old woman with history of C2-C7 laminectomy and fusion.  She had painful C2-3 radicular pain but an anterograde trial was unsuccessful as the lead could not be advanced through the scar.  With a complete laminectomy there is such extensive scar tissue it is impossible to advance a lead in standard fashion.

retrograde open trial

The red line demonstates the scar tissue from previous laminectomy.  You can also see the paraspinous muscle atrophy.  The inferior portion of the skull is also visible as it the existing hardware.  I performed a suboccipital exposure under local MAC anesthesia and fed two percutaneous leads in via a retrograde fashion.

Axial neck pain with retrograde paddles

This 51 year old woman had severe neck and jaw pain.  She was ruled out for having TMJ and no surgical lesions were found on cervical imaging.  I placed two retrograde Artisan paddles connected to a distal splitter (captures distal four contacts on each array).

retrodualartisan retrolateral

Note emphasis on the “Omega” anchor technique.

View From Anesthesia

View from anesthesia

Axial neck pain – retrograde paddle

This 47 year old man had previous thoracic implant for low back and leg pain with great success.  He presented with worsening neck pain, persistent after an anterior cervical fusion by outside physician.  He had a trial by his pain physician with good relief at top of the midline electrode.


To optimize cervical coverage and reduce migration I placed dual Exclaim leads by St. Jude in a retrograde fashion.  The leads tunnel from the epidural space at the Occipital-cervical membrane under the ring of C1 and docked halfway under C2.  This lead contains six exclamation point style contacts for a total of 12 individual contacts.  However, each row of dots is wired together to function as a single contact for a total of eight functional electrodes.


My experience with this technique is that it provides excellent side to side coverage and can often cover the C2 nerve root as it emerges from the cord.  This can give occipital nerve coverage as well as axial neck coverage.  However, I have had one case of a lead fracturing at the site of entry into the paddle, presumably from too much stress at this point despite placing a strain relief.

Omega Plate – ideal bone anchor

I use a cranial fixation dogbone bent like an Omega sign as an screw-on anchor for rigid fixation.  While midline spinous process straddling is my preferred paddle anchor there are cases when that is not possible.  For example, most cervical cases, especially retrograde do not have an adequate bony keel to anchor to.  Likewise if I use a unilateral laminotomy to place a paddle I have not exposed enough bone.  In these cases I anchor the Omega directly to the bone with 4mm screws.

Omega plate

See the Omega anchor technique illustrated here.

Dual paddle case with splitter

This 42 year old gentleman had two distinct areas of pain and had successful trials with octrodes placed at T1 and T8. dualpaddle-pain

He underwent dual paddle placements at the approriate level.  We used a wide space splitter to connect each pair of tails to a single port on the IPG.  dualpaddle  Splitter1

The IPG pocket gets crowded with two splitters feeding into the can.  I recommend creating a dual layer pocket with the deepest layer for the splitters and the superficial pocket for the IPG.  This keeps the leads coiled nicely below.