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Deep Brain Technique Eases Chronic Pain

Long-term success of 80 percent against tough-to-treat back trouble, study finds

MONDAY, April 18, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Deep brain stimulation (DBS) may help people with chronic pain who haven't responded to other forms of treatment.

That's the conclusion of an Australian study presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons in New Orleans.

DBS has been used for more than 50 years to treat chronic unresponsive pain. It involves placement of electrodes into the brain that deliver a continuous electrical pulse to areas involved in processing pain signals.

The Australian researchers reviewed previous studies examining the use of DBS to treat pain.

They found that the rate of long term pain relief was highest -- 87 percent -- in patients undergoing DBS of the brain's periventricular gray region plus the sensory thalamus. A long-term success rate of more than 80 percent was achieved in patients with intractable low back pain and failed back surgery who had successful trial DBS and then had permanent DBS implantation.

Trial DBS proved successful in about 50 percent of people with post-stroke pain, and permanent DBS implantation resulted in 58 percent of patients achieving ongoing pain relief. Patients with two other conditions -- phantom limb pain and radiculopathies -- had moderately higher rates of success with DBS.

"We conclude from this analysis, as well as our own experience, that DBS has an important role to play in the treatment of selected patients with chronic pain syndromes which have not responded to other forms of treatment," researcher Dr. Richard G. Bittar, of the Australasian Movement Disorder and Pain Surgery Clinic, in Melbourne, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The Cleveland Clinic Foundation has information on deep brain stimulation for movement disorders.

SOURCE: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, news release, April 8, 2005
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