Author(s): Cioni B, Meglio M
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Abstract Motor cortex stimulation (MCS) was proposed by Tsubokawa in 1991 for the treatment of post-stroke thalamic pain. Since that time, the indications have been increased and included trigeminal neuropathic pain and later other types of central and peripheral deafferentation pain. The results reported in the literature are quite good; the mean long-term success rate is 80\% in facial pain and 53\% in non-facial pain. Our own results are less impressive: 4 of 14 patients (28\%) experienced a greater than 40\% pain relief, but in 2 of them the effect faded with time. Only few minor complications have been reported. The accurate placement of the epidural electrode over the motor cortex that somatotopically corresponds to the painful area is believed to be essential for pain relief. Predictive factors included the response to pharmacological tests, the relative sparing from the disease process of the cortico-spinal tract and the sensory system, and the analgesic response achieved during the test period of MCS. A possible predictive factor might be a test of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the motor cortex. MCS may act by rebalancing the control of non-nociceptive sensory inputs over nociceptive afferents at cortical, thalamic, brainstem and spinal level. In addition, it may interfere with the emotional component of nociceptive perception. Biochemical processes involving endorphins and GABA may also be implicated in the mechanism of MCS. It is time for a large multicenter prospective randomized double blind study evaluating not only the effect of MCS on pain (based on the available guidelines for assessment of neuropathic pain), but also the optimal electrode placement and stimulation parameters, and the possible relationship with the response to rTMS. New electrode design and a new generation of stimulators may help in improving the results.
This article was published in Acta Neurochir Suppl
and referenced in Journal of Pain & Relief