Does Neuromodulation Reduce Chronic Pain Patient Emergency Department Utilization?

Neurosurgery. 2022 Jan 1;90(1):131-139. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0000000000001754.


Background: Chronic pain (CP) affects roughly 100 million adults in the United States. These subjects present disproportionately to the emergency department (ED). Neuromodulation (NM) has been shown to reduce ED visits longitudinally in subjects.

Objective: To compare ED utilization rates between subjects with CP with and without NM.

Methods: Subjects with failed back surgery syndrome, complex regional pain syndrome, or neuropathic pain diagnosis who visited the hospital between January 1, 2019, and December 31, 2019, were included. Subjects were divided into a NM-treated cohort and a non-NM cohort. Demographic information, medications, and pain provider visits were obtained. Pain-related ED visits between 2017 and 2019 were compared.

Results: A total of 2516 subjects were identified; 291 (11.6%) previously underwent NM. The non-NM cohort had significantly higher rate of pain-related ED visits compared with the NM cohort (15.1% vs 10.0%, P = .018). Younger age (odds ratio [OR] = 0.888 [0.843-0.935]), shorter distance to the hospital (OR = 0.807 [0.767-0.849]), lower household income (OR = 0.865 [0.831-0.901]), opioid use (OR = 1.375 [1.291-1.465]), nonopioid use (OR = 1.079 [1.033-1.128]), and non-NM therapy (OR = 1.751 [1.283-2.390]) were significant predictors of ED visits. Opioid use was the only significant predictor (OR = 6.124 [1.417-26.473]) associated with ED visits in the NM cohort.

Conclusion: Subjects who underwent NM had fewer visits to the ED when compared with similar subjects who received conventional treatment. Opioid use prompted increased ED utilization in both cohorts. We posit that NM leads to improvement in pain outcomes, integration with multidisciplinary pain specialists, and reduction in severity and frequency of acute pain exacerbations, thereby limiting health care resource utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid