Object. The goal of this study was to identify the neurological characteristics of patients with poststroke pain who show a favorable response to motor cortex (MC) stimulation used to control their pain.
Methods. The neurological characteristics of 31 patients treated by MC stimulation were analyzed. In 15 patients (48%), excellent or good pain control (pain reduction > 60%) was achieved for follow-up periods of more than 2 years by using MC stimulation at intensities below the threshold for muscle contraction. Satisfactory pain control was achieved in 13 (73%) of 18 patients in whom motor weakness in the painful area was virtually absent or mild, but in only two (15%) of the 13 patients who demonstrated moderate or severe weakness in the painful area (p < 0.01). Muscle contraction was inducible in the painful area in 20 patients when stimulated at a higher intensity. No such muscle response was inducible in the remaining 11 patients, no matter how extensively the authors attempted to determine appropriate stimulation sites. Satisfactory pain control was achieved in 14 (70%) of the 20 patients in whom muscle contraction was inducible, but in only one (9%) of the 11 patients in whom muscle contraction was not inducible (p < 0.01). No significant relationship was observed between pain control and various sensory symptoms, including the presence of hypesthesia, spontaneous dysesthesia, hyperpathia, and allodynia, or the disappearance of the N20 component of the median nerve—evoked somatosensory scalp potential. No significant relationship existed between the effect of MC stimulation on the pain and stimulation-induced phenomena, including paresthesia, improvement in motor performance, and attenuation of involuntary movements.
Conclusions. These findings suggest that the pain control afforded by MC stimulation requires neuronal circuits that are maintained by the presence of intact corticospinal tract neurons originating from the MC. Preoperative evaluation of motor weakness of the painful area appears to be useful for predicting a favorable response to MC stimulation in the control of poststroke pain.