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Deep brain stimulation brings benefits in patients with neuropathic pain

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Deep brain stimulation brings benefits in patients with neuropathic pain

According to a report released by the University of Oxford, deep brain stimulation has promising results in treating neuropathic pain. The study was published in the February issue of Neurosurgery and is one of the largest studies conducted up to now on the treatment of neuropathic pain using DBS. It seems that patients with neuropathic pain who undergo deep brain stimulation have significant improvement in symptoms and the results are long-lasting. In the study led by Sandra G.J. Boccardi, PhD, University of Oxford, two-thirds of DBS patients had a significant improvement not only in terms of symptoms, but also in terms of quality of life and overall health. The study also showed that for some outcomes, improvement continued in the first year after DBS treatment.

Neuropathic pain, which is caused by nerve damage ( mechanical factors such as trauma or certain diseases, like diabetes) is a type of pain  resistant to medication. Deep brain stimulation involves placing a small electrode in a certain area of the brain through which is delivered an electric current that disrupts abnormal activity. It should be noted that this method is not new as it is already in use to treat several neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. It must be said that deep brain stimulation has been used to treat chronic pain, but its role in neuropathic pain remains somewhat unclear.

Brain Stimulator

Brain Stimulation

To see how effective  DBS is in treating neuropathic pain, researchers evaluated 197 patients who were selected to undergo this procedure. Of these, only 85 underwent DBS, that is 65 men and 25 women aged over 52 years. Regarding the etiology of neuropathic pain, the most common cause was stroke, then facial and head pain, spinal pain, amputation and pain caused by damage to the brachial plexus. Of the 85 patients, 74 underwent implantation of electrical pulse generator for DBS, because after the first session, they had a significant pain relief. In addition, 39 patients had an improvement in overall health status 4 years later after DBS. The study results showed that, in the end, DBS brought benefits in 66% patients.

Most benefits had the patients with amputation (89%), followed by those with stroke (70%) and then by those with brachial plexus lesions (50%). In terms of pain relief, in a 10-point pain scale, patients reported a decrease from 8 to 4, which indicates a significant improvement. Although the results are promising, Dr. Boccard pointed out that further studies must be done in order to confirm the findings.