Deep brain stimulation improves the symptoms and sensory signs of persistent central neuropathic pain from spinal cord injury: A case report

Walter J. Jermakowicz, Ian Hentall, Jonathan Jagid, Corneliu C Luca, James Adcock, Alberto Martinez-Arizala, Eva Widerstrom-Noga

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Abstract

Central neuropathic pain (CNP) is a significant problem after spinal cord injury (SCI). Pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches may reduce the severity, but relief is rarely substantial. While deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat various chronic pain types, the technique has rarely been used to attenuate CNP after SCI. Here we present the case of a 54-year-old female with incomplete paraplegia who had severe CNP in the lower limbs and buttock areas since her injury 30 years prior. She was treated with bilateral DBS of the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG). The effects of this stimulation on CNP characteristics, severity and pain-related sensory function were evaluated using the International SCI Pain Basic Data Set (ISCIPBDS), Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), Multidimensional Pain Inventory and Quantitative Sensory Testing before and periodically after initiation of DBS. After starting DBS treatment, weekly CNP severity ratings rapidly decreased from severe to minimal, paralleled by a substantial reduction in size of the painful area, reduced pain impact and reversal of pain-related neurological abnormalities, i.e., dynamic-mechanical and cold allodynia. She discontinued pain medication on study week 24. The improvement has been consistent. The present study expands on previous findings by providing in-depth assessments of symptoms and signs associated with CNP. The results of this study suggest that activation of endogenous pain inhibitory systems linked to the PAG can eliminate CNP in some people with SCI. More research is needed to better-select appropriate candidates for this type of therapy. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the brainstem’s control of chronic pain and for future progress in using analgesic DBS in the central gray.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number177
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Volume11
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 6 2017

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Deep Brain Stimulation
Neuralgia
Spinal Cord Injuries
Signs and Symptoms
Pain
Periaqueductal Gray
Chronic Pain
Equipment and Supplies
Buttocks
Symptom Assessment
Paraplegia
Hyperalgesia
Mesencephalon
Brain Stem
Analgesics
Lower Extremity
Pharmacology
Wounds and Injuries
Therapeutics
Research

Keywords

  • Chronic pain
  • Evoked pain
  • Low-frequency stimulation
  • Neuromodulation
  • Pain severity
  • Periaqueductal gray

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

Cite this

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title = "Deep brain stimulation improves the symptoms and sensory signs of persistent central neuropathic pain from spinal cord injury: A case report",
abstract = "Central neuropathic pain (CNP) is a significant problem after spinal cord injury (SCI). Pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches may reduce the severity, but relief is rarely substantial. While deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat various chronic pain types, the technique has rarely been used to attenuate CNP after SCI. Here we present the case of a 54-year-old female with incomplete paraplegia who had severe CNP in the lower limbs and buttock areas since her injury 30 years prior. She was treated with bilateral DBS of the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG). The effects of this stimulation on CNP characteristics, severity and pain-related sensory function were evaluated using the International SCI Pain Basic Data Set (ISCIPBDS), Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), Multidimensional Pain Inventory and Quantitative Sensory Testing before and periodically after initiation of DBS. After starting DBS treatment, weekly CNP severity ratings rapidly decreased from severe to minimal, paralleled by a substantial reduction in size of the painful area, reduced pain impact and reversal of pain-related neurological abnormalities, i.e., dynamic-mechanical and cold allodynia. She discontinued pain medication on study week 24. The improvement has been consistent. The present study expands on previous findings by providing in-depth assessments of symptoms and signs associated with CNP. The results of this study suggest that activation of endogenous pain inhibitory systems linked to the PAG can eliminate CNP in some people with SCI. More research is needed to better-select appropriate candidates for this type of therapy. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the brainstem’s control of chronic pain and for future progress in using analgesic DBS in the central gray.",
keywords = "Chronic pain, Evoked pain, Low-frequency stimulation, Neuromodulation, Pain severity, Periaqueductal gray",
author = "Jermakowicz, {Walter J.} and Ian Hentall and Jonathan Jagid and Luca, {Corneliu C} and James Adcock and Alberto Martinez-Arizala and Eva Widerstrom-Noga",
year = "2017",
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language = "English (US)",
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T1 - Deep brain stimulation improves the symptoms and sensory signs of persistent central neuropathic pain from spinal cord injury

T2 - A case report

AU - Jermakowicz, Walter J.

AU - Hentall, Ian

AU - Jagid, Jonathan

AU - Luca, Corneliu C

AU - Adcock, James

AU - Martinez-Arizala, Alberto

AU - Widerstrom-Noga, Eva

PY - 2017/4/6

Y1 - 2017/4/6

N2 - Central neuropathic pain (CNP) is a significant problem after spinal cord injury (SCI). Pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches may reduce the severity, but relief is rarely substantial. While deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat various chronic pain types, the technique has rarely been used to attenuate CNP after SCI. Here we present the case of a 54-year-old female with incomplete paraplegia who had severe CNP in the lower limbs and buttock areas since her injury 30 years prior. She was treated with bilateral DBS of the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG). The effects of this stimulation on CNP characteristics, severity and pain-related sensory function were evaluated using the International SCI Pain Basic Data Set (ISCIPBDS), Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), Multidimensional Pain Inventory and Quantitative Sensory Testing before and periodically after initiation of DBS. After starting DBS treatment, weekly CNP severity ratings rapidly decreased from severe to minimal, paralleled by a substantial reduction in size of the painful area, reduced pain impact and reversal of pain-related neurological abnormalities, i.e., dynamic-mechanical and cold allodynia. She discontinued pain medication on study week 24. The improvement has been consistent. The present study expands on previous findings by providing in-depth assessments of symptoms and signs associated with CNP. The results of this study suggest that activation of endogenous pain inhibitory systems linked to the PAG can eliminate CNP in some people with SCI. More research is needed to better-select appropriate candidates for this type of therapy. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the brainstem’s control of chronic pain and for future progress in using analgesic DBS in the central gray.

AB - Central neuropathic pain (CNP) is a significant problem after spinal cord injury (SCI). Pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches may reduce the severity, but relief is rarely substantial. While deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat various chronic pain types, the technique has rarely been used to attenuate CNP after SCI. Here we present the case of a 54-year-old female with incomplete paraplegia who had severe CNP in the lower limbs and buttock areas since her injury 30 years prior. She was treated with bilateral DBS of the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG). The effects of this stimulation on CNP characteristics, severity and pain-related sensory function were evaluated using the International SCI Pain Basic Data Set (ISCIPBDS), Neuropathic Pain Symptom Inventory (NPSI), Multidimensional Pain Inventory and Quantitative Sensory Testing before and periodically after initiation of DBS. After starting DBS treatment, weekly CNP severity ratings rapidly decreased from severe to minimal, paralleled by a substantial reduction in size of the painful area, reduced pain impact and reversal of pain-related neurological abnormalities, i.e., dynamic-mechanical and cold allodynia. She discontinued pain medication on study week 24. The improvement has been consistent. The present study expands on previous findings by providing in-depth assessments of symptoms and signs associated with CNP. The results of this study suggest that activation of endogenous pain inhibitory systems linked to the PAG can eliminate CNP in some people with SCI. More research is needed to better-select appropriate candidates for this type of therapy. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the brainstem’s control of chronic pain and for future progress in using analgesic DBS in the central gray.

KW - Chronic pain

KW - Evoked pain

KW - Low-frequency stimulation

KW - Neuromodulation

KW - Pain severity

KW - Periaqueductal gray

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