Neuromodulation of distal targets such as dorsal root ganglion may permit greater anatomic specificity of the therapy, whereas subthreshold stimulation with high-frequency or burst energy delivery may eliminate noxious and off-target paresthesiae. Such new technologies should be subject to rigorous evaluation as their mechanisms of action and long-term outcomes remain hitherto undefined 1).
Piedade et al., from University Hospital of Düsseldorf, reported a consecutive series of 20 patients treated with DRG stimulation in the upper thoracic and cervical region. All patients suffered from chronic neuropathic pain unresponsive to best medical treatment. Main pain etiologies were trauma, spine surgery, postherpetic neuralgia, and peripheral nerve surgery. All patients were trialed with externalized electrodes prior to permanent pulse generator implantation. Routine clinical follow-up was performed during reprogramming sessions.
Out of all 20 patients trialed, 18 were successfully trialed and implanted with a permanent stimulation system. The average pain relief after three months compared to the baseline was of 60.9% (mean VAS 8.5 to VAS 3.2). 77.8% of the patients reported a pain relief of at least 50% after three months. One patient developed a transient paresis of the arm caused by the procedure. She completely recovered within three months.
Cervical and upper thoracic DRG stimulation resulted in good overall response rates to trialing and similar pain relief when compared to DRG stimulation for groin and lower limb pain. A modified surgical approach has to be used when compared with lumbar DRG electrode placement. Surgery itself in this region is more complication prone and challenging 2).
Morgalla et al., prospectively enrolled 12 adult patients with unilateral localized neuropathic pain in the lower limbs or inguinal region and followed them up for six months Laser evoked potentials (LEP) were assessed at baseline, after one month of DRGS, and after six months of DRGS. Clinical assessment included the Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), SF-36, and Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). For each patient, LEP amplitudes and latencies of the N2 and P2 components on the deafferented side were measured and compared to those of the healthy side and correlated with pain intensity, as measured with the NRS.
At the one- and six-month follow-ups, N2-P2 amplitudes were significantly greater and NRS scores were significantly lower compared with baseline (all p’s < 0.01). There was a negative correlation between LEP amplitudes and NRS scores (rs = -0.31, p < 0.10).
DRGS is able to restore LEPs to normal values in patients with localized neuropathic pain, and LEP alterations are correlated with clinical response in terms of pain intensity 3).
van Velsen et al. used a single-incision approach to tunnel and implant the leads and pulse generator for DRG stimulation treatment in a patient suffering from intractable foot pain. At long-term follow-up, the patient experienced a decrease in pain intensity and improvement in function, without any complications. A single-incision implantation technique for DRG stimulator implantation may simplify implantation and decrease the risk of complications 4).