Thalamic Deep Brain Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain: Efficacy at Three Years' Follow-Up.
Abreu V., Vaz R., Rebelo V., Rosas MJ., Chamadoira C., Gillies MJ., Aziz TZ., Pereira EAC.
OBJECT: Chronic neuropathic pain is estimated to affect 3-4.5% of the worldwide population, posing a serious burden to society. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) is already established for movement disorders and also used to treat some "off-label" conditions. However, DBS for the treatment of chronic, drug refractory, neuropathic pain, has shown variable outcomes with few studies performed in the last decade. Thus, this procedure has consensus approval in parts of Europe but not the USA. This study prospectively evaluated the efficacy at three years of DBS for neuropathic pain. METHODS: Sixteen consecutive patients received 36 months post-surgical follow-up in a single-center. Six had phantom limb pain after amputation and ten deafferentation pain after brachial plexus injury, all due to traumas. To evaluate the efficacy of DBS, patient-reported outcome measures were collated before and after surgery, using a visual analog scale (VAS) score, University of Washington Neuropathic Pain Score (UWNPS), Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), and 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). RESULTS: Contralateral, ventroposterolateral sensory thalamic DBS was performed in sixteen patients with chronic neuropathic pain over 29 months. A postoperative trial of externalized DBS failed in one patient with brachial plexus injury. Fifteen patients proceeded to implantation but one patient with phantom limb pain after amputation was lost for follow-up after 12 months. No surgical complications or stimulation side effects were noted. After 36 months, mean pain relief was sustained, and the median (and interquartile range) of the improvement of VAS score was 52.8% (45.4%) (p = 0.00021), UWNPS was 30.7% (49.2%) (p = 0.0590), BPI was 55.0% (32.0%) (p = 0.00737), and SF-36 was 16.3% (30.3%) (p = 0.4754). CONCLUSIONS: DBS demonstrated efficacy at three years for chronic neuropathic pain after traumatic amputation and brachial plexus injury, with benefits sustained across all pain outcomes measures and slightly greater improvement in phantom limb pain.