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Stereotact Funct Neurosurg. 2019 Apr 4:1-6. doi: 10.1159/000494737. [Epub ahead of print]

Spinal Cord Stimulation for Restless Legs Syndrome: Case Series and Mechanistic Hypothesis.

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Department of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Surgery, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Department of Neurology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA.
Department of Neurosurgery, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina, USA,



Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a well-established therapy for chronic pain syndromes, with growing applicability to other conditions. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a widespread, chronic movement disorder managed primarily and incompletely by medication, and its etiology can be classified as idiopathic or secondary.


Three patients underwent SCS implantation for chronic back and/or leg pain with concomitant targeting of RLS: (1) a 34-year-old man with sporadic RLS symptoms that strongly intensified after military-related spinal fractures, (2) a 54-year-old man with RLS likely secondary to meralgia paresthetica, and (3) a 42-year-old man with low back and right lower extremity pain after a military motor vehicle accident.


Continuing through 40-month, 2-month, and 28-month follow-ups, respectively, the patients experienced exemplary relief of their RLS symptoms. Notably in the case of patient 1, this benefit appears separate from his pain relief, as during the 5-month period directly after surgery but before adjusted targeting, he only experienced pain alleviation.


To our knowledge, this is the first reported case of using SCS as a potentially long-lasting, safe, and highly effective therapy for RLS of mixed etiology. Additionally, 2 patients with RLS possibly secondary to chronic pain also benefited from the therapy. This success may be due to increased inhibition from hypothalamic cells controlling dopaminergic input to the spine.


Chronic pain; Neuromodulation; Restless legs syndrome; Spinal cord stimulation


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