A recently released study revealed that spinal cord stimulation has no more effectiveness than pain medications after failed back surgery, according to a Reuters article. However, spinal cord stimulation may still provide some relief and assistance to certain patients, said Dr. Ajay D. Wasan in his commentary on the study. Dr. Judith A. Turner of the University of Washington in Seattle and her colleagues conducted the study, published in a recent edition of the journal, Pain.
The study consisted of following and comparing the outcomes of 51 people who tried spinal cord stimulation after their back pain persisted following surgery. Researchers compared the outcomes with 39 patients who underwent specialized pain treatments at a pain clinic and 68 patients who received neither pain treatment nor spinal cord stimulation, according to the Reuters article.
The results were not promising, with less than 10 percent of the patients in all three groups showing any kind of improvement in pain levels or movement abilities. However, the spinal cord stimulation group did report less leg pain after 6 months of treatment. The results are not conclusive, since the same group used more opiods than the other groups. At one and two years after surgery, there was no notable difference in results among all three groups.
Dr. Wasan pointed out that 30 percent of the patients who had spinal cord stimulation electrodes implanted did actually show improvement in leg function and a lessening of leg pain after two years of treatment. The Reuters article noted, ‘While the findings show that spinal cord stimulation is clearly not appropriate for every person with persistent back pain after surgery, people with radiating pain on one side of the body, those who are functioning better before undergoing the procedure, and those in better psychological health are more likely to benefit,’ Dr. Wasan said.
While spinal cord stimulation has been proven relatively ineffective in some circumstances, it remains likely that the treatment will continue to be available. Further study is necessary to determine which patients the procedure can benefit the most.
Reuters Health. (February 17, 2010) ‘Spine stimulation may not help after failed surgery.’ Retrieved on February 22, 2010 from the Reuters Web site:http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE61G55R20100217