Clinical Report: Spinal Cord Stimulation in the Treatment of Phantom Limb Pain

Category: Research
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Despite technical advances in spinal cord stimulation (SCS), there is a paucity of recent literature regarding SCS for phantom limb pain.


Between January 2003 and May 2008, four patients at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center underwent SCS for intractable phantom limb pain. A retrospective chart review was performed to assess outcomes and complications. A PubMed search was performed to review previously published series regarding the efficacy of SCS for phantom limb pain.


Postoperatively, all patients subjectively reported excellent pain relief (>80%). Patients were all followed with the Brief Pain Inventory. Patients 1 to 3 each reported a two-point decrease in their usual amount of pain using the numerical rating scale. Patient 4’s numerical pain scale was unchanged. When using an 11-point scale to assess other symptomology along 10 dimensions, patients 1 to 3 demonstrated a decrease in their total symptom score by 13, 14, and 4 points, respectively. Patient 4 reported an increase by 5 points in his total symptom score. With regard to complications, patient 2 developed an allergic dermatitis to the generator requiring revision with a polyfluoroethylene (GorTex) pouch. Patient 3 developed a surgical site infection after an implantable pulse generator change. Patients 2 to 4 were very satisfied with their stimulator and would choose to undergo implantation again, with patient 1 having an equivocal response.


For selected patients who have not obtained adequate relief with medical management, SCS for phantom limb pain can prove an effective intervention.

Read the Full Clinical Report: Viswanathan A SCS Phantom Pain 2010

Ashwin Viswanathan, MD; Phillip Cuong Phan, MD; Allen Wade Burton, MD
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Neurosurgery, Houston, Texas; M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.