Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation as a Salvage Treatment for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Refractory to Dorsal Column Spinal Cord Stimulation: A Case Series

Neuromodulation. 2017 Oct;20(7):703-707. doi: 10.1111/ner.12622. Epub 2017 Jun 16.


Objective: The efficacy of traditional spinal cord stimulation (t-SCS) tends to decay over time in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). While it has been shown that dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation is extremely effective in t-SCS-naïve patients with CRPS, its efficacy in patients who had previously failed t-SCS is unknown. Given that DRG-SCS and t-SCS target different spinal pathways, a failure with t-SCS should not automatically preclude a patient from attempting DRG-SCS.

Materials and methods: Two patients with lower extremity CRPS, previously implanted with t-SCS systems, experienced relapses in the pain despite exhaustive reprogramming. Both patients were offered DRG stimulation as a means to salvage treatment.

Results: Patient 1 reported 90% pain reduction with significant gait improvement during the DRG stimulation trial. The patient subsequently proceeded to implant and have the t-SCS implantable pulse generator explanted. Patient 2 was unable to undergo a trial with DRG-SCS because of health insurance constraints, so she elected to undergo a surgical revision of her existing system whereby a DRG-SCS system was added to the existing t-SCS to create a hybrid system with two implantable pulse generators. The patient reported an immediate improvement in pain because of the introduction of the DRG-SCS. Additionally, she was instructed to document her pain scores with each system on individually, as well as with both on-her pain scores were at the lowest with the DRG-SCS on by itself. At eight-month follow-up, both patients reported sustained pain improvement and retained their functional gains.

Conclusions: Our case series demonstrates that a failure of t-SCS is not necessarily a failure of neurostimulation as a whole. The efficacy of DRG-SCS is independent of prior t-SCS therapy outcomes in these two patients and a history of t-SCS failure serves no predictive value in these two patients for future DRG stimulation success. Therefore, DRG-SCS can be considered as a reasonable next-step to salvage patients with CRPS who had failed other SCS treatments.

Keywords: chronic pain; complex regional pain syndrome; dorsal root ganglion; salvage therapy; spinal cord stimulation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndromes / therapy*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Ganglia, Spinal*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Salvage Therapy / methods*