Current Evidence Lacking to Guide Clinical Practice for Spinal Cord Stimulation in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain in Spinal Cord Injury: A Review of the Literature and a Proposal for Future Study

Marissa L. Dombovy-Johnson, Christine L. Hunt, Melissa M. Morrow, Tim J. Lamer, Thomas P. Pittelkow

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background/Objective: Chronic pain is commonly reported in individuals with spinal cord injuries (SCIs), with recent prevalence reported as high as 80%. Uncontrolled pain is known to decrease quality of life, attenuate mood, and impact sleep. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for the treatment of refractory pain was first used in the SCI population in 1972. To date there have been no randomized controlled trials examining the effect of SCS on neuropathic pain post-SCI. A literature review in 2009 identified 27 studies, the majority prior to 2000, that included at least 1 patient with SCI. Given the significant advancements in the field of SCS, this review examines the updated evidence of SCS for the treatment of neuropathic pain in individuals with SCI and provides guidance on future investigations. Methods: MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched. All published reports, case series, and clinical trials reviewing SCS for neuropathic pain that included at least 1 individual with SCI were included. Results: The initial search identified 376 reports, of which 22 met inclusion criteria, for a total of 69 patients. All reports were of very low quality. A majority of the reported patients were male, underwent tonic stimulation, and reportedly experienced improvement in pain and spasticity, with decreased use of pain medication. Conclusions: The synthesized findings from primarily case studies support the safety of SCS in SCI with the suggestion of potential pain relief benefit; however, data from low-quality studies are insufficient for informing clinical practice. A well-designed, prospective clinical trial is proposed to further investigate this indication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)325-335
Number of pages11
JournalPain Practice
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

Keywords

  • pain
  • spinal cord injury
  • spinal cord stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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