BACKGROUND: Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) I is a debilitating neuropathic pain disorder characterized by burning pain and allodynia. Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is effective in the treatment of CRPS I in the medium term but its long-term efficacy and ability to improve functional status remains controversial.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the ability of SCS to improve pain, functional status, and quality of life in the long term.
METHODS: We retrospectively analyzed 25 patients over a mean follow-up period of 88 months. The parameters for evaluation were visual analog scale (VAS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), EuroQoL-5D (EQ-5D) and Short Form 36 (SF-36), and drug consumption. Evaluations were conducted at point of entry, 3 months, 12 months, and last follow-up at 88 months (mean).
RESULTS: At baseline, the mean scores were VAS 8.4, ODI 70%, BDI 28, EQ-5D 0.30, and SF-36 24. In general, maximum improvement was recorded at follow-up at 3 months (VAS 4.8, ODI 45%, BDI 15, EQ-5D 0.57, and SF-36 45). At last follow-up, scores were 5.6, 50%, 19, 0.57, and 40, respectively. Despite some regression, at last follow-up benefits were maintained and found to be statistically significant (P < .001) compared with baseline. Medication usage declined. SCS did not prevent disease spread to other limbs. Best results were achieved in stage I CRPS I, patients under 40 years of age, and those receiving SCS within 1 year of disease onset.
CONCLUSION: SCS improves pain, quality of life, and functional status over the long term and consequently merits early consideration in the treatment continuum.