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Neurosurgery. 2019 Jan 1;84(1):217-226. doi: 10.1093/neuros/nyy065.

Spinal Cord Stimulation for the Treatment of Chronic Pain Reduces Opioid Use and Results in Superior Clinical Outcomes When Used Without Opioids.

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Albany Medical Center Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics, Albany, New York.
Department of Neurosurgery, Albany Medical Center, Albany, New York.



Chronic pain causes a significant burden to the US health care system, is difficult to treat, and remains a significant contributor to increased opioid use in the United States. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been FDA approved for the treatment of chronic pain.


To evaluate the hypothesis that SCS reduces opioid use, and alone maintains clinical outcome measures of pain and psychosocial determinants of health.


In this prospective cohort study, we evaluated 86 patients undergoing SCS surgery for the treatment of chronic pain between September 2012 and August 2015. Preoperatively and postoperatively, patients completed the Numerical Rating Scale (NRS), McGill Pain Questionnaire (MPQ), Pain Catastrophizing Scale (PCS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and Beck's Depression Inventory (BDI). VAS scores were retrospectively analyzed.


Fifty-three patients used opioids before SCS implantation. The 33 nonusers had lower mean VAS, NRS, and ODI scores than both opioid groups at 1 yr and improved significantly at 1 yr on the VAS (P < .001), NRS (P < .001), MPQ (P = .002), PCS (P < .001), BDI (P = .04), and ODI (P = .002). After surgery, 41.5% remained opioids and 58.5% reduced/eliminated use. Discontinued (n = 29) or reduced (n = 2) use resulted in VAS, NRS, total MPQ, and ODI score reduction (P < .001, P = .002, P = .002, and P = .009 respectively). At 1 yr, survey scores in opioid users were unchanged. There was no difference between groups in revision or failure rates.


Sixty-four percent of patients who were using opioids prior to SCS reduced (n = 2) or eliminated opioid use (n = 29) at 1 yr postoperatively. Patients who eliminated opioid use or never used opioids had superior clinical outcomes to those who continued use.


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