Back Pain: A Real Target for Spinal Cord Stimulation?

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Failed back surgery syndrome represents one of the most frequent etiologies of chronic back pain and is a major public health issue. Neurostimulation has currently not been validated in the treatment of back pain because of technological limitations in implantable spinal cord stimulation (SCS) systems. New-generation leads using several columns of stimulation can generate longitudinal and/or transverse stimulation fields into the spinal cord.


To investigate, through extensive stimulation testing, the capacity of multicolumn tripolar leads to achieve back territory paresthesia coverage in refractory failed back surgery syndrome patients.


Eleven patients implanted with a 16-contact spinal cord stimulation lead (Specify 5-6-5, Medtronic Inc) were assessed with a systematic exploration of 43 selected stimulation configurations to generate bilateral back paresthesia in addition to leg territory coverage.


The tripolar lead successfully generated paresthesia in both bilateral back and leg territories in 9 patients (81.8%). Success rates of multicolumn stimulation patterns were significantly higher than for longitudinal configurations for lombodorsal paresthesia coverage. Six months after implantation, significant pain relief was obtained compared with preoperative evaluation for global pain (Visual Analog Scale, 2.25 vs 8.2 preoperatively; P < .05), leg pain (Visual Analog Scale, 0.5 vs 7.6 preoperatively; P < .05), and back pain (Visual Analog Scale, 1.5 vs 7.8 preoperatively; P < .05).


These results suggest that multicolumn leads can reliably generate back pain coverage and favor pain relief outcomes. This may lead physicians to reconsider new indications for spinal cord stimulation. Expanding neurostimulation perspectives to intractable back pain syndromes could become realistic in the near future.

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