REVIEW
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Present and potential use of spinal cord stimulation to control chronic pain.

BACKGROUND: Spinal cord stimulation is an intervention that has become increasingly popular due to the growing body of literature showing its effectiveness in treating pain and the reversible nature of the treatment with implant removal. It is currently approved by the FDA for chronic pain of the trunk and limbs, intractable low back pain, leg pain, and pain from failed back surgery syndrome. In Europe, it has additional approval for refractory angina pectoris and peripheral limb ischemia.

OBJECTIVE: This narrative review presents the current evidence supporting the use of spinal cord stimulation for the approved indications and also discusses some emerging neuromodulation technologies that may potentially address pain conditions that traditional spinal cord stimulation has difficulty addressing.

STUDY DESIGN: Narrative review.

RESULTS: Spinal cord stimulation has been reported to be superior to conservative medical management and reoperation when dealing with pain from failed back surgery syndrome. It has also demonstrated clinical benefit in complex regional pain syndrome, critical limb ischemia, and refractory angina pectoris. Furthermore, several cost analysis studies have demonstrated that spinal cord stimulation is cost effective for these approved conditions. Despite the lack of a comprehensive mechanism, the technology and the complexity in which spinal cord stimulation is being utilized is growing. Newer devices are targeting axial low back pain and foot pain, areas that have been reported to be more difficult to treat with traditional spinal cord stimulation. Percutaneous hybrid paddle leads, peripheral nerve field stimulation, nerve root stimulation, dorsal root ganglion, and high frequency stimulation are actively being refined to address axial low back pain and foot pain. High frequency stimulation is unique in that it provides paresthesia free analgesia by stimulating beyond the physiologic frequency range. The preliminary results have been mixed and a large randomized control trial is underway to evaluate the future of this technology. Other emerging technologies, including dorsal root ganglion stimulation and hybrid leads, also show some promising preliminary results in non-randomized observational trials.

LIMITATION: This review is a primer and not an exhaustive review for the current evidence supporting the use of spinal cord stimulation and precursory discussion of emerging neuromodulation technologies. This review does not address peripheral nerve stimulation and focuses mainly on spinal cord stimulation and touches on peripheral nerve field stimulation.

CONCLUSIONS: Spinal cord stimulation has demonstrated clinical efficacy in randomized control trials for the approved indications. In addition, several open label observational studies on peripheral nerve field stimulation, hybrid leads, dorsal root ganglion stimulation, and high frequency stimulation show some promising results. However, large randomized control trials demonstrating clear clinical benefit are needed to gain evidence based support for their use.

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