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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet]. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd; 2003-.

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: Plain Language Summaries [Internet].

Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for phantom pain and stump pain following amputation in adults

This version published: 2013; Review content assessed as up-to-date: February 01, 2013.

Plain language summary

Amputee pain may present in a body part that has been amputated (phantom pain) or at the site of amputation (stump pain), or both. Phantom pain and stump pain are complex conditions and affect up to 80% of amputees. The underlying causes are not fully understood. Drug therapy is the most common treatment yet the condition remains poorly managed. The need for non‐drug interventions has been recognised and TENS may have an important role to play. TENS is an inexpensive, safe and easy to use analgesic technique which consists of a battery powered, portable device which generates electrical currents that are passed across the intact surface of the skin to activate underlying nerves. A search of various databases found no studies that met the eligibility criteria for inclusion in this review which prevents any judgement on the effectiveness of TENS for phantom pain and stump pain. A large multicenter randomised controlled trial is needed.

Abstract

Background: Amputee pain may present in a body part that has been amputated (phantom pain) or at the site of amputation (stump pain), or both. Phantom pain and stump pain are complex and multidimensional and the underlying pathophysiology remains unclear. The mainstay treatments for phantom pain and stump pain are predominately pharmacological. The condition remains a severe burden for those who are affected by it. There is increasing acknowledgement of the need for non‐drug interventions and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) may have an important role to play. TENS has been recommended as a treatment option for phantom pain and stump pain. To date there has been no systematic review of available evidence and the effectiveness of TENS for phantom pain and stump pain is currently unknown.

Objectives: To assess the analgesic effectiveness of TENS for the treatment of phantom pain and stump pain following amputation in adults.

Search methods: We searched MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), EMBASE, PsycINFO, AMED, CINAHL, PEDRO and SPORTDiscus (February 2010).

Selection criteria: Only randomised controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the use of TENS for the management of phantom pain and stump pain following an amputation in adults were included.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. It was planned that where available and appropriate, data from outcome measures were to be pooled and presented as an overall estimate of the effectiveness of TENS.

Main results: No RCTs that examined the effectiveness of TENS for the treatment of phantom pain and stump pain in adults were identified by the searches.

Authors' conclusions: There were no RCTs on which to judge the effectiveness of TENS for the management of phantom pain and stump pain. The published literature on TENS for phantom pain and stump pain lacks the methodological rigour and robust reporting needed to confidently assess its effectiveness. Further RCT evidence is required before such a judgement can be made.

Editorial Group: Cochrane Pain, Palliative and Supportive Care Group.

Publication status: Edited (no change to conclusions).

Citation: Mulvey MR, Bagnall A, Johnson MI, Marchant PR. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for phantom pain and stump pain following amputation in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD007264. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007264.pub2. Link to Cochrane Library. [PubMed: 20464749]

Copyright © 2013 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 20464749

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