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Nat Rev Neurol. 2011 Sep 20;7(12):699-709. doi: 10.1038/nrneurol.2011.138.

Invasive brain stimulation for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

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  • 1Service de Neurochirurgie, Center Hospitalo-Universitaire de Nantes, Hôpital Nord Laënnec, Boulevard Jacques Monod, Saint-Herblain, 44093 Nantes Cedex 1, France.


Neurostimulation therapy is indicated for neuropathic pain that is refractory to medical treatment, and includes stimulation of the dorsal spinal cord, deep brain structures, and the precentral motor cortex. Spinal cord stimulation is validated in the treatment of selected types of chronic pain syndromes, such as failed back surgery syndrome. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has shown promise as a treatment for peripheral neuropathic pain and phantom limb pain. Compared with DBS, motor cortex stimulation (MCS) is currently more frequently used, mainly because it is more easily performed, and has a wider range of indications (including central poststroke pain). Controlled trials have demonstrated the efficacy of MCS in the treatment of various types of neuropathic pain, although these trials included a limited number of patients and need to be confirmed by large, controlled, multicenter studies. Despite technical progress in neurosurgical navigation, results from studies of MCS are variable, and validated criteria for selecting good candidates for implantation are lacking. However, the evidence in favor of MCS is sufficient to include it in the range of therapeutic options for refractory neuropathic pain. In this Review, the respective efficacies and mechanisms of action of DBS and MCS are discussed.

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