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J Neurosurg. 1997 Apr;86(4):662-9.

Improvement of limb circulation in peripheral vascular disease using epidural spinal cord stimulation: a prospective study.

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  • 1Department of Neurosurgery, University of Saskatchewan, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.


Spinal cord stimulation was used in 46 patients for pain associated with lower extremity ischemic vascular disease that was considered to be nonreconstructable. Thirty-nine patients who had a follow-up examination between 2 and 36 months after the procedure form the basis of this report. Thirty (77%) of 39 cases were considered successful. Clinical endpoints indicating failure included amputation, vascular reconstruction, poor pain relief, or hardware malfunction. The transcutaneous partial pressure of oxygen (TcPO2) increased in both target and control feet. In patients with good outcome with a preimplantation TcPO2 of less than 30 mm Hg, TcPO2 increased significantly (p < 0.05). Pulse volume recording improved significantly (p < 0.05) at the thigh, metatarsal, and great toe levels in successfully treated patients. Peak blood flow velocity also showed a significant increase in patients with good outcome (p < 0.05). Patients with a TcPO2 of less than 10 mm Hg following stimulation tended to undergo amputation within the first 3 months. Improvement in pain control, combined with an increase in TcPO2 values that was greater than 10 mm Hg, were significant early predictors of long-term success. An initial increase in peak blood flow velocities (measured in Doppler studies) of greater than 10 mm also signified a good long-term outcome. Spinal cord stimulation appears to be a useful therapeutic modality for controlling pain and improving perfusion in a select group of patients with end-stage ischemic vascular disease considered nonreconstructable. The best results were seen in patients with severe claudication and rest pain without trophic changes in the foot. The mechanism of this beneficial effect is not yet completely understood.

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