Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (PENS)


What is PENS?

  • PENS therapy is used to treat chronic nerve pain, such as hypersensitivity, neuropathic headache and chronic post-surgical pain.
  • Occasionally it is used as a diagnostic tool.
  • A PENS machine delivers low voltage electrical current to the peripheral nerves via probe(s) placed just under the skin. It works by altering the state of the nerves resulting in pain relief. It does not destroy the nerves but makes them less sensitive to pain.
  • For more information on PENS, read our educational news article on Percutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.


Prior to the Procedure

  • All blood thinning products (except aspirin) must be stopped prior to your procedure. You will be advised by letter when to stop taking these medications at the time that your admission date is arranged.
  • You are able to take your other regular medications with a sip of water on the morning of your procedure.
  • If you are an insulin dependent diabetic you will always be at the beginning of the list. Please bring your insulin with you and it will be given to you following your procedure.
  • Hamilton Day Surgery Centre staff will advise you of your fasting and admission times.
  • You must not have anything to eat, drink, smoke or chew prior to your procedure.
  • You will need to organise someone to drive you home after the procedure as you will not be able to drive for 24 hours after your procedure.


What Will Happen?

  1. You will be admitted to the day surgery by a nurse and you will be asked to change into a gown.
  2. The anaesthetist will speak with you and place a cannula (plastic needle) into a vein in your hand.
  3. You will be assisted to position on the procedure table.
    • The position you are placed in will depend on where the stimulator electrode needs to be placed. 
  4. The anaesthetist will give you some sedation into your vein.
  5. The doctor will mark the area to be treated and inject local anaesthetic to numb the area before inserting one or two thin probes under your skin. 
  6. You will then be wheeled into recovery where the PENS therapy will take place.
  7. You will be connected to the PENS machine which will deliver the therapy.
  8. A very low voltage electrical current is delivered through the probe/s for approximately 30-45 minutes. 
  9. On completion of therapy, the probe(s) will be removed.
  10. After having something to eat and drink, you will be discharged with a carer.


Post Procedure

  • Gentle activity and rest is recommended in the first 24 hours following the procedure. You may then return to normal activity.
  • This procedure can give approximately 4 months of pain relief and can be used in preparation for a Peripheral Nerve Stimulator Implant if indicated.
  • A nurse from HPC will telephone you 24 to 48 hours following your procedure to discuss the outcome of your procedure and organize a follow-up appointment. 

If you require further explanation of the procedure, please contact Hunter Pain Clinic nursing staff on (02) 4985 1800.


* Image courtesy of yodiyim via