The authors systematically reviewed the published literature to evaluate the efficacy of and adverse effects after motor cortex stimulation (MCS) for chronic neuropathic pain.
A search of the PubMed database (1991–2006) using the key words “motor cortex,” “stimulation,” and “pain” yielded 244 articles. Only original nonduplicated articles were selected for further analysis; 14 studies were identified for critical review. All were series of cases and none was controlled. The outcomes in 210 patients were assessed and expressed as the percentage of patients that improved with the procedure.
A good response to MCS (pain relief ≥ 40–50%) was observed in ~ 55% of patients who underwent surgery and in 45% of the 152 patients with a postoperative follow-up ≥ 1 year. Visual analog scale scores were provided in 76 patients, revealing an average 57% improvement in the 41 responders. A good response was achieved in 54% of the 117 patients with central pain and 68% of the 44 patients with trigeminal neuropathic pain. Adverse effects were reported in 10 studies, including 157 patients. Infections (5.7%) and hardware-related problems (5.1%) were relatively common complications. Seizures occurred in 19 patients (12%) in the early postoperative period, but no chronic epilepsy was reported.
The results of the authors' review of the literature suggest that MCS is safe and effective in the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain. Results must be considered with caution, however, as none of the trials were blinded or controlled. Studies with a better design are mandatory to confirm the efficacy of MCS for chronic neuropathic pain.