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Atypical Facial Pain Treated With Upper Thoracic Dorsal Column Stimulation

Neuman, Stephanie A. MD; Eldrige, Jason S. MD; Hoelzer, Bryan C. MD

doi: 10.1097/AJP.0b013e31820d276d
Case Report

Introduction Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is the most commonly used implantable neurostimulation modality for management of pain syndromes. We present a patient with history of right facial pain successfully treated for refractory angina with SCS and had coincident near resolution of facial pain.

Case Description A 45 year old male with documented coronary vasospasm presented for consideration of SCS for refractory angina. He underwent successful implantation with significant improvement in his intractable chest pain. Additionally, during trial and post-implantation, the patient described almost complete resolution of his chronic facial pain. Prior to implantation, the facial pain had been thoroughly evaluated without a discernible cause. He had been symptomatically treated for atypical facial pain (AFP) with gabapentin. Post-implantation, the patient was able to discontinue gabapentin and described near complete resolution of his AFP.

Discussion SCS is one of the most promising treatment options for refractory angina. Numerous randomized, controlled trials have demonstrated efficacy in increasing exercise duration and time to angina, decreasing number of angina attacks, sublingual nitrate consumption, and number of ischemic episodes. Reductions in pain, sympathetic tone, and myocardial oxygen demand as well as improvement in coronary microcirculatory blood flow have all been proposed as beneficial outcomes of stimulation. AFP is a poorly understood condition, often without etiology, and most commonly treated symptomatically. The resolution of our patient's AFP is secondary to unclear mechanism(s). We propose SCS may have altered central processing or spinal trigeminal nucleus fibers; additionally, the pain may have been sympathetically mediated and altered by SCS.

Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, MN

No support received. Conflicts of interest: None. Ethical adherence: Yes.

Reprints: Stephanie A. Neuman, MD, Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street, S.W., Rochester, MN 55905 (e-mail:

Received August 31, 2010

Accepted December 23, 2010

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.