Spinal cord stimulation for the treatment of complex regional pain syndrome leads to improvement of quality of life, reduction of pain and psychological distress: a retrospective case series with 24 months follow up

Frank Patrick Schwarm 1 , Marco Stein 1 , Eberhard Uhl 1 , Hagen Maxeiner 2  and Malgorzata A. Kolodziej 1
  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
  • 2 Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Therapy, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
Frank Patrick Schwarm, Marco Stein, Eberhard Uhl, Hagen Maxeiner
  • Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Therapy, Justus-Liebig-University Giessen, Giessen, Germany
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and Malgorzata A. Kolodziej

Abstract

Background and aims

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a common pain condition which is characterized by pain, functional impairment, and trophic changes. Neurosurgical treatment is not widely offered. In this study the treatment with spinal cord stimulation (SCS) was evaluated over 24 months follow up.

Methods

A retrospective case analysis of six patients with severe CRPS was performed. Pain chronicity was recorded with the Mainz Pain Staging System (MPSS). Pain intensity (NRS), activity level and health-related quality of life (EQ-5D-5L), the actual mood state (ASTS), and treatment satisfaction (CSQ-8) were assessed. All patients received conventional pharmacological treatments including multimodal pain therapy through their local pain therapist or in specialized centers as well as physical therapy. A SCS electrode was implanted for trial stimulation. After successful trial a neurostimulator was implanted and connected to the electrode. Patients were retrospectively analyzed before implantation and 6, 12 and 24 months postoperatively. Statistical analysis was performed using Mann–Whitney U and Wilcoxon rank-sum test.

Results

Patients median age was 43 years (IQR25−75 37–43 years). The median MPSS Score was 3 of 3 indicating a high pain chronicity. Median NRS before implantation of the neurostimulator was 8.8 (IQR25−75 7.6–9.3). A reduction to 7.8 (IQR25−75 4.8–8.1; p = 0.14) after 6 months, 6.5 (IQR25−75 3.8–8.1; p = 0.08) after 1 year, and 6.8 (IQR25−75 3.8–8.5; p = 0.15) after 2 years was achieved. Median EQ-5D-5L index value before treatment was 0.27 (IQR25−75 0.25–0.41) indicating a severely lowered quality of life. A significant improvement to 0.53 (IQR25−75 0.26–0.65; p = 0.03) after 6 months, 0.58 (IQR25−75 0.26–0.84; p = 0.03) after 1 year as well as after 2 years was seen. ASTS scale showed an increase of values for positive mood, and a reduction in values for sorrow, fatigue, anger and desperation during the whole follow up period. The treatment satisfaction in the whole cohort with a median CSQ-8 value of 29.5 of 32 was very high.

Conclusion

The results of this small case series showed a significant improvement of the EQ-5D-5L after implantation of a neurostimulator. NRS reduction was not significant but a clear tendency towards reduced values was observed. We therefore conclude that SCS is an alternative option to relieve chronic pain and psychological distress originating from CRPS if non-invasive managements of severe CRPS failed. The preoperative selection plays a crucial role for good results.

Implications

CRPS is difficult to treat. SCS is an alternative option to improve the quality of life and relieve chronic pain originating from severe CRPS if conservative treatment modalities fail. Further psychological distress is reduced in long-term follow up. SCS should be kept in mind for therapy refractory cases.

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