Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the long-term effectiveness of spinal cord stimulation using laminectomy-style electrodes versus that using percutaneously implanted electrodes.
Methods: Forty-one patients underwent an initial trial period of spinal cord stimulation with temporary electrodes at Duke Medical Center between December 1992 and January 1998. A permanent system was implanted if trial stimulation reduced the patient's pain by more than 50%. Median long-term follow-up after permanent electrode placement was 34 months (range, 6-66 mo). Severity of pain was determined postoperatively by a disinterested third party using a visual analog scale and a modified outcome scale.
Results: Twenty-seven (66%) of the 41 patients participating in the trial had permanent electrodes placed. Visual analog scores decreased an average of 4.6 among patients in whom electrodes were placed via laminectomy in the thoracic region (two-tailed t test, P < 0.0001). Patients who underwent percutaneous placement of thoracic electrodes had an average decrease of 3.1 in their visual analog scores (two-tailed t test, P < 0.001). Electrodes placed through laminectomy furnished significantly greater long-term pain relief than did those placed percutaneously, as measured by a four-tier outcome grading scale (P = 0.02).
Conclusion: Spinal cord stimulation is an effective treatment for chronic pain in the lower back and lower extremities that is refractory to conservative therapy. Electrodes placed via laminectomy in the thoracic region appear to be associated with significantly better long-term effectiveness than are electrodes placed percutaneously.