EAN guidelines on central neurostimulation therapy in chronic pain conditions

Eur J Neurol. 2016 Oct;23(10):1489-99. doi: 10.1111/ene.13103. Epub 2016 Aug 11.


Background and purpose: Our aim was to update previous European Federation of Neurological Societies guidelines on neurostimulation for neuropathic pain, expanding the search to new techniques and to chronic pain conditions other than neuropathic pain, and assessing the evidence with the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system.

Methods: A systematic review and meta-analysis of trials published between 2006 and December 2014 was conducted. Pain conditions included neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) type I and post-surgical chronic back and leg pain (CBLP). Spinal cord stimulation (SCS), deep brain stimulation (DBS), epidural motor cortex stimulation (MCS), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct electrical stimulation (tDCS) of the primary motor cortex (M1) or dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) were assessed. The GRADE system was used to assess quality of evidence and propose recommendations.

Results: The following recommendations were reached: 'weak' for SCS added to conventional medical management in diabetic painful neuropathy, CBLP and CRPS, for SCS versus reoperation in CBLP, for MCS in neuropathic pain, for rTMS of M1 in neuropathic pain and fibromyalgia and for tDCS of M1 in neuropathic pain; 'inconclusive' for DBS in neuropathic pain, rTMS and tDCS of the DLPFC, and for motor cortex tDCS in fibromyalgia and spinal cord injury pain.

Conclusions: Given the poor to moderate quality of evidence identified by this review, future large-scale multicentre studies of non-invasive and invasive neurostimulation are encouraged. The collection of higher quality evidence of the predictive factors for the efficacy of these techniques, such as the duration, quality and severity of pain, is also recommended.

Keywords: chronic pain; complex regional pain syndrome; fibromyalgia; neuromodulation; neuropathic pain; neurostimulation; post-surgical chronic back and leg pain.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / therapy*
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia / therapy*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation / methods*
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation / methods*