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Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 1989;53(1):29-39.

Epidural spinal cord stimulation in the management of reflex sympathetic dystrophy.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pa.


Eighteen subjects with intractable pain due to reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) underwent treatment by epidural spinal cord stimulation (SCS). All the patients had previously undergone multiple sympathetic blocks and/or surgical sympathectomy with either no results or only temporary therapeutic effects. Four subjects did not experience any beneficial effects during a 1-week trial and the electrode was removed, and 14 patients had the system internalized surgically. In 4 cases two separate systems (electrode + pulse generator) were implanted, in order to cover distant areas of the body involved by the disease (neck, shoulders, upper extremities, trunk and lower extremities). Follow-up varies from 4 to 14 months. In the implanted group, pain relief was absent in 3 patients, minimal in 1, moderate in 5 and good in 6. Pain relief was strictly limited to the body parts covered by the parasthesiae induced by SCS. In 3 patients, SCS produced visible changes in the swelling of the painful extremities. None of the patients was made neurologically worse. In 7 patients there were technical problems related to electrode breakage or migration, change in the pattern of paresthesiae and poor connection due to body fluid infiltration. All the problems were corrected surgically under local anesthesia. SCS has some value in the management of refractory RSD pain in selected cases. Because of the limited series and follow-up, its value in the comprehensive management of RSD requires further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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