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Radiographic lead migration in percutaneous spinal cord stimulator trials
  1. Cormac Francis Mullins1,2,
  2. Jonathan Royds1 and
  3. Adnan Al-Kaisy1
  1. 1Department of Pain Management, Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals NHS Trust, London, UK
  2. 2Pain Medicine, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Cormac Francis Mullins, Department of Pain Medicine, South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork, Ireland; cormacmullins1{at}


Introduction Lead migration during spinal cord stimulator (SCS) trials is relatively neglected in the literature and presents a different set of challenges compared with fully implanted leads. There is no consensus on what constitutes a clinically significant amount of radiographic lead migration during SCS trials. We wished to evaluate the incidence and extent of radiographic lead migration during percutaneous SCS trials, to investigate the risk factors for lead migration and whether this has impacted on trial success.

Methods This prospective observational study of percutaneous SCS trials took place in a tertiary referral center in the UK between April 2021 and January 2022. Radiographs of SCS lead position were taken at baseline and prior to lead removal. Lead migration ≥50% of a vertebral level was deemed significant.

Results One hundred trials were included comprising 162 leads. Mean migration distance was 0.55 vertebral levels (SD 0.85) or 12.5 mm (SD 18.2) in a caudal direction. Significant radiographic migration occurred in 50% of all leads (81 of 162 leads), at least one lead in 62% of cases and all leads in 44% of cases. Radiographic lead migration was not found to be associated with reduced trial success. A single lead and mechanical anchors were associated with greater incidence of lead migration.

Conclusion Radiographic lead migration of approximately half of a vertebral level in a caudal direction can be expected during percutaneous SCS trials and this can be anticipated by siting leads half of a vertebral level higher to accommodate for this. Additional factors should be considered in the setting of radiographic lead migration to determine whether this can be considered clinically significant.

  • Spinal Cord Stimulation
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Postoperative Complications

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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  • Contributors CFM, JR, and AA-K conceived and designed the study. CFM acquired the data and analyzed and interpreted the results with assistance from JR and AA-K. CFM drafted the article and CFM, JR, and AA-K all approved the final version of the article. CFM was responsible for overall content of the study.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests JR is an investigator with Medtronic and AA-K is an investigator with Nevro, Boston Scientific, Abbott, and Medtronic.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.