Dorsal root entry zone (DREZ) lesioning has been the most effective surgical treatment for the relief of intractable pain due to root avulsion injury, but residual pain and a decrease in pain relief in the follow-up period have been reported in 23%–70% of patients. Based on pain topography in the most recent studies on neuropathic pain, the authors modified the conventional DREZ lesioning procedure to improve clinical outcomes. The presumed rationale for this procedure is to eliminate the spontaneous discharges of neurons in the superficial spinal dorsal horn as well as wide dynamic range neurons in the deep spinal dorsal horn.
Ten patients with avulsion-related pain underwent surgery between 2011 and 2015. The surgical procedure was described and postoperative pain relief was assessed as follows: excellent (residual pain never exceeded 3 on the visual analog scale [VAS] without medication), good (residual pain never exceeded 5 on the VAS with medication), and poor (residual pain was greater than 5 with medication). Specific perioperative complications were assessed.
The aim of this surgical procedure was to destroy the deeper layers of the posterior horn of spinal gray matter, which was in contrast to the procedures of Nashold and Sindou, which were to destroy the superficial layers. All patients achieved excellent (n = 7, pain relief without medication) or good (n = 3, pain relief with medication) pain relief postoperatively, and the recurrence of pain was not reported in any patients (median 29 months after surgery, range 12–64 months). Nine patients (90%) achieved complete pain relief (a score of 0 or 1 on the VAS) with or without medication. No surgical site complications such as infection or CSF leakage were noted. No motor deficit was observed in any patient. A sensory deficit was observed in 2 patients and disappeared within 1 month in 1 patient. New pain at the adjacent level of DREZ lesioning was observed in 3 patients and disappeared within 1 month in 2 patients. In the other patient, new pain persisted and required analgesics.
These preliminary results demonstrated that total and persistent global pain relief was achieved with the modified DREZ lesioning procedure in 90% of patients without major neurological deficits. The clinical improvements achieved by this modified surgical procedure support the hypothesis that not only the superficial layers, but also deeper layers of the spinal dorsal horn are associated with intractable pain due to root avulsion injury.