Deep brain stimulation for phantom limb pain.
Bittar RG., Otero S., Carter H., Aziz TZ.
Phantom limb pain is an often severe and debilitating phenomenon that has been reported in up to 85% of amputees. Its pathophysiology is poorly understood. Peripheral and spinal mechanisms are thought to play a role in pain modulation in affected individuals; however central mechanisms are also likely to be of importance. The neuromatrix theory postulates a genetically determined representation of body image, which is modified by sensory input to create a neurosignature. Persistence of the neurosignature may be responsible for painless phantom limb sensations, whereas phantom limb pain may be due to abnormal reorganisation within the neuromatrix. This study assessed the clinical outcome of deep brain stimulation of the periventricular grey matter and somatosensory thalamus for the relief of chronic neuropathic pain associated with phantom limb in three patients. These patients were assessed preoperatively and at 3 month intervals postoperatively. Self-rated visual analogue scale pain scores assessed pain intensity, and the McGill Pain Questionnaire assessed the quality of the pain. Quality of life was assessed using the EUROQOL EQ-5D scale. Periventricular gray stimulation alone was optimal in two patients, whilst a combination of periventricular gray and thalamic stimulation produced the greatest degree of relief in one patient. At follow-up (mean 13.3 months) the intensity of pain was reduced by 62% (range 55-70%). In all three patients, the burning component of the pain was completely alleviated. Opiate intake was reduced in the two patients requiring morphine sulphate pre-operatively. Quality of life measures indicated a statistically significant improvement. This data supports the role for deep brain stimulation in patients with phantom limb pain. The medical literature relating to the epidemiology, pathogenesis, and treatment of this clinical entity is reviewed in detail.