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Abigail Belasen, Khizer Rizvi, Lucy E. Gee, Philip Yeung, Julia Prusik, Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, Era Hanspal, Priscilla Paiva, Jennifer Durphy, Charles E. Argoff and Julie G. Pilitsis

OBJECTIVE

Chronic pain is a major distressing symptom of Parkinson's disease (PD) that is often undertreated. Subthalamic nucleus (STN) deep brain stimulation (DBS) delivers high-frequency stimulation (HFS) to patients with PD and has been effective in pain relief in a subset of these patients. However, up to 74% of patients develop new pain concerns while receiving STN DBS. Here the authors explore whether altering the frequency of STN DBS changes pain perception as measured through quantitative sensory testing (QST).

METHODS

Using QST, the authors measured thermal and mechanical detection and pain thresholds in 19 patients undergoing DBS via HFS, low-frequency stimulation (LFS), and off conditions in a randomized order. Testing was performed in the region of the body with the most pain and in the lower back in patients without chronic pain.

RESULTS

In the patients with chronic pain, LFS significantly reduced heat detection thresholds as compared with thresholds following HFS (p = 0.029) and in the off state (p = 0.010). Moreover, LFS resulted in increased detection thresholds for mechanical pressure (p = 0.020) and vibration (p = 0.040) compared with these thresholds following HFS. Neither LFS nor HFS led to changes in other mechanical thresholds. In patients without chronic pain, LFS significantly increased mechanical pain thresholds in response to the 40-g pinprick compared with thresholds following HFS (p = 0.032).

CONCLUSIONS

Recent literature has suggested that STN LFS can be useful in treating nonmotor symptoms of PD. Here the authors demonstrated that LFS modulates thermal and mechanical detection to a greater extent than HFS. Low-frequency stimulation is an innovative means of modulating chronic pain in PD patients receiving STN DBS. The authors suggest that STN LFS may be a future option to consider when treating Parkinson's patients in whom pain remains the predominant complaint.

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Olga Khazen, Marisa DiMarzio, Kelsey Platanitis, Heather C. Grimaudo, Maria Hancu, Miriam M. Shao, Michael D. Staudt, Lucy Maguire, Vishad V. Sukul, Jennifer Durphy, Era K. Hanspal, Octavian Adam, Eric Molho and Julie G. Pilitsis

OBJECTIVE

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is known to reduce motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). The effects of DBS on various nonmotor symptoms often differ from patient to patient. The factors that determine whether or not a patient will respond to treatment have not been elucidated. Here, the authors evaluated sex differences in pain relief after DBS for PD.

METHODS

The authors prospectively evaluated 20 patients preoperatively and postoperatively after bilateral STN DBS with the validated numeric rating scale (NRS), Revised Oswestry Disability Index for low-back pain (RODI), and King’s Parkinson’s Disease Pain Scale (KPDPS) and assessed the impact of sex as a biological variable.

RESULTS

The cohort consisted of 6 female and 14 male patients with a mean duration of 11.8 ± 2.0 months since DBS surgery. Females were significantly older (p = 0.02). Covariate analysis, however, showed no effect of age, stimulation settings, or other confounding variables. KPDPS total scores statistically significantly improved only among males (p < 0.001). Males improved more than females in musculoskeletal and chronic subsets of the KPDPS (p = 0.03 and p = 0.01, respectively). RODI scores significantly improved in males but not in females (p = 0.03 and p = 0.30, respectively). Regarding the NRS score, the improvements seen in both sexes in NRS were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS

Although it is well recognized that pain complaints in PD are different between men and women, this study is unique in that it examines the sex-specific DBS effects on this symptom. Considering sex as a biological variable may have important implications for DBS pain outcome studies moving forward.