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High cervical spinal cord stimulation for occipital neuralgia: a case series and literature review

Authors Texakalidis P, Tora MS, Nagarajan P, Keifer OP Jr, Boulis NM

Received 3 May 2019

Accepted for publication 2 August 2019

Published 21 August 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 2547—2553


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Michael A Überall

Pavlos Texakalidis, Muhibullah S Tora, Purva Nagarajan, Orion P Keifer Jr, Nicholas M Boulis

Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, USA

Correspondence: Pavlos Texakalidis
Department of Neurosurgery, Emory University School of Medicine, 101 Woodruff Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
Tel +1 64 470 698 5879

Background: Occipital neuralgia (ON) is defined as paroxysmal pain in the distribution of the greater, lesser, and/or third occipital nerves. ON can be refractory to conservative management and minimally invasive interventions. Neuromodulatory procedures can potentially treat refractory ON and include occipital nerve stimulation and the sparsely reported high cervical spinal cord stimulation (SCS).
Objective: To report our experience and conduct a systematic literature review of studies evaluating the effect of high cervical SCS as a treatment modality for refractory ON.
Methods: A retrospective review of patients with refractory ON who underwent high cervical SCS was conducted. In addition, a systematic literature review was performed according to the PRISMA guidelines.
Results: Five patients with refractory ON were treated with high cervical (C1–C3) SCS in our institution. Two out of five (40%) patients reported a successful trial stimulation (>50% pain reduction) and received permanent implantation. During the follow-up, the visual analog scale score decreased from 7.5 to 4 and from 6.5 to 5 in these patients. No complications were reported for any of the patients. The systematic literature review, identified two eligible studies, comprising 18 patients overall who underwent cervicomedullary junction SCS. Nine out of 18 patients (50%) had a successful trial and received permanent implantation.
Conclusion: High cervical or cervicomedullary junction SCS is associated with a 40–50% successful trial rate in refractory ON. No major complications were noted during the follow-up. Future studies are needed to compare the different neurosurgical options, in order to identify the optimal treatment strategy for refractory ON.

Keywords: occipital neuralgia, spinal cord stimulation, neuromodulation

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