Modeling Scar Effects in Electrical Spinal Cord Stimulation

Kris Carlson, Dr. Jay Shils & Dr. Jeffrey Arle
Lahey Clinic
Burlington, MA

The Neuromodulation Group at Lahey Clinic conducted a study based upon spinal cord stimulation (SCS). SCS involves implanting a series of electrodes that apply electric potential to the spine, interfering with pain signaling circuitry. It’s used to alleviate chronic back and leg pain. Although the treatment remains effective for years, the electrodes must be reprogrammed through trial and error because scarring alters the electrical characteristics of the system.

The team at Lahey Clinic used simulation to solve the problem. Having already created an incredibly detailed, one-of-a-kind model in SolidWorks®, they turned to COMSOL Multiphysics®. The model was linked to COMSOL Multiphysics using LiveLinkTM for SolidWorks®, which allowed the team to adjust their model to different material and physics parameters.

By adding these changes to the model, they saw the distortion of the electrical fields caused by the scar formation. This analysis allowed doctors to model the electrical field of the implanted electrodes around a patient’s scar tissue and adjust the electrodes to immediately alleviate pain.

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