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Treatment of pain post-brachial plexus injury using high-frequency spinal cord stimulation

Authors Floridia D, Cerra F, Guzzo G, Marino S, Muscarà N, Corallo F, Bramanti A, Chillura A, Naro A

Received 21 March 2018

Accepted for publication 2 August 2018

Published 27 November 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 2997—3002

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S168031

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Amy Norman

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval


Daniela Floridia, Francesco Cerra, Giuseppe Guzzo, Silvia Marino, Nunzio Muscarà, Francesco Corallo, Alessia Bramanti, Antonino Chillura, Antonino Naro

IRCCS Centro Neurolesi Messina, Messina, Italy

Purpose: Brachial plexopathy can sometimes cause severe chronic pain. There are many possible treatments for such neuropathic pain, including neuromodulation. However, rigorous scientific evidence on the usefulness of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is still scarce. Here, we report the use of high-frequency (10 kHz) SCS (HFSCS) in a patient with brachial plexus injury (root avulsion).
Objective: To assess the efficacy of HFSCS in root avulsion and to investigate the putative neurophysiological mechanisms of HFSCS.
Methods: A 32-year-old woman visited our center following an iatrogenic brachial plexus injury. She underwent traditional, paresthesia-inducing, tonic SCS with cervical lead placement. She reported that stimulation-induced paresthesia was uncomfortable, without any pain reduction. After the successful trial of HFSCS, the patient was assessed at 1 month (T1) and 6 months (T6) after HFSCS implantation with pain and quality of life (QoL) scales. Moreover, she underwent a neurophysiological assessment (somatosensory evoked potentials [SEPs], reciprocal inhibition [RI], pain-motor integration [PMI], and the habituation of intraepidermal electrical stimulation-induced evoked potentials [IEPs]) with the stimulator switched on and switched off at T6.
Results: The patient reported 100% paresthesia-free pain relief, a consistent improvement of QoL, and a complete discontinuation of her previous pain treatment at T1 and T6. Moreover, we found suppression of SEPs, restored habituation of IEPs, and strengthening of RI and PMI.
Conclusion: This is the first report to illustrate the usefulness and safety of HFSCS for treating root avulsion in a patient with failed tonic SCS. Our data indicate that HFSCS may either block large-diameter fibers or stimulate medium-/small-diameter fibers, thus inducing analgesia without paresthesia, probably by reducing the activation of the wide-dynamic-range neurons. Moreover, HFSCS seems to modulate spinal inhibitory mechanisms and the descending corticospinal inhibitory output. Thus, HFSCS can be an effective option for treating refractory pain following root avulsion.

Keywords: Mechanism, root, avulsion, chronic, pain, neuromodulation

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