OBJECTIVE : The clinical use of spinal cord stimulation for treatment of chronic intractable pain has been increasingly successful because of recent technical improvements, particularly the development of multiple-contact electrodes supported by programmable implanted pulse generators. Contemporary electrodes can be placed percutaneously in some cases and require a limited laminectomy in other cases.
METHODS : We performed a prospective, randomized, controlled trial comparing two prototypical electrode designs, using a computerized system that allows direct patient interaction and quantitative measurements. A series of 24 patients with chronic lumbosacral pain syndromes first underwent testing with percutaneous four-contact electrodes and then underwent implantation, at the same spinal level, of one of two different electrode configurations; 12 patients received a new percutaneous four-contact electrode of the same design and 12 received an insulated four-contact array, which was implanted via laminectomy.
RESULTS : The insulated array performed significantly (P = 0.0005–0.0047) better than the temporary percutaneous electrode for the same patients, according to all three measures tested (ratings of paresthesia coverage of pain, coverage calculated from patient drawings, and amplitudes), at the “usage” amplitude for the three standard bipoles examined. The insulated array also performed significantly (P = 0.0000–0.026) better than the permanent percutaneous electrode in terms of coverage ratings and amplitude requirements. Low back coverage ratings were significantly better for the insulated array than for the temporary percutaneous electrode, and scaled amplitudes necessary for low back coverage were significantly better for the permanent percutaneous electrode than for the temporary electrode. In comparison with the percutaneous temporary electrode, at subjectively identical stimulation intensities, the permanent insulated array required significantly lower amplitude.
CONCLUSION : We can immediately infer from these technical data that the use of an insulated array, in comparison with a percutaneous electrode, would double battery life. Extended follow-up monitoring will be required to assess the extent to which the technical advantages we observed for the insulated array might be associated with improved clinical outcomes.