Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Trials. 2013 Jul 31;14:241. doi: 10.1186/1745-6215-14-241.

Deep brain stimulation of the ventral striatum/anterior limb of the internal capsule in thalamic pain syndrome: study protocol for a pilot randomized controlled trial.

Author information

  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Center for Neurological Restoration, Cleveland Clinic, 9500 Euclid Avenue, ND20, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.



Chronic neuropathic pain in thalamic pain syndrome remains intractable. Its poor response is ascribed to destruction of the integrated neuromatrix in experience of pain. Deep brain stimulation is a promising technique to modulate activity of implicated structures. However, traditional approaches targeting sensori-motor substrates have failed to affect disability. The offending lesion in thalamic pain syndrome that almost invariably destroys sensory pain pathways may render these classical approaches ineffective. Instead, we hypothesize that targeting structures representing emotion and affective behavior-ventral striatum/anterior limb of the internal capsule, may alleviate disability.


We present the design of our phase I randomized, double-blinded, sham-controlled, crossover trial that examines safety, feasibility and efficacy of our proposed approach. In our ongoing trial, we intend to enroll ten patients with thalamic pain syndrome. Following implantation, patients are randomized to receive active deep brain stimulation to the ventral striatum/anterior limb of the internal capsule or sham for 3 months, after which they are crossed over. The primary endpoint is Pain Disability Index. Other outcomes include visual analog scale, depression and anxiety inventories, quality of life, and functional neuroimaging.


Designing trials of deep brain stimulation for pain is challenging owing to the ethical-scientific dilemma of introducing a control arm, complicated blinding, heterogeneous etiologies, patient expectations, and inadequate assessment of disability. The quality of evidence in the field is classified as level III (poor) because it mainly includes a multitude of uncontrolled case series reporting variable outcomes, with little regard for the placebo effect related to implantation. Without valid data on efficacy, use of deep brain stimulation for pain remains "off label". We present our trial design to discuss feasibility of conducting sham-controlled phase I studies that may represent significant refinement for the field. Double-blinding would reduce influence of patient expectations and therapeutic confusion amongst investigators. With a cross-over approach, the dilemma regarding including a control group can be mitigated. Use of homogeneous etiology, measurement of disability, depression and quality of life, besides pain perception, all represent strategies to evaluate efficacy rigorously. Functional imaging would serve to define mechanisms underlying observed effects and may help optimize future targeting.


[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk