Arizona Pain Specialists, part of the Pain Doctor family, has performed the first dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation procedure in Arizona, offering pain patients new hope for a pain-free future. DRG stimulation is a minimally-invasive procedure designed to help treat refractory or unresponsive pain in patients who have tried a number of different treatment methods.

Arizona Pain Specialists provides a new treatment option

DRG stimulation is similar in principle to spinal cord stimulation (SCS). Spinal cord stimulation uses a weak electrical current delivered by an implanted device to interrupt pain signals from the nerves to the brain. Pain signals are replaced with a tingling sensation (pins and needles, sometimes referred to as paresthesia) from the electrical current. While SCS can be highly effective for some types of pain, Arizona Pain Specialists wanted to expand their offerings to include a method that is more targeted and effective for certain types of pain.

Benefits of DRG stimulation

DRG stimulation is especially effective for:

  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Failed back surgery syndrome
  • Post-amputation pain (related, in some cases to phantom limb pain)
  • Unresponsive neuropathic pain in the groin and lower extremities

DRG stimulation also utilizes an implanted device, but the target of the electrical current is different. Whereas spinal cord stimulation targets a more generalized area, DRG stimulation targets the dorsal root ganglion, a highly sensitive bundle of nerves located next to the dorsal root near the spine. Damage to the dorsal root ganglion can result in intractable neuropathic pain that does not respond to traditional spinal cord stimulation. Instead of targeting the whole spinal cord, as with spinal cord stimulation, DRG stimulation focuses on this bundle of nerves.

DRG stimulation at Arizona Pain Specialists 

Ted Swing, PhD, research director at Arizona Pain Specialists notes that while spinal cord stimulation works well for many patients, certain types of pain just don’t respond to generalized treatment, saying:

“Spinal cord stimulators, have proven very effective at relieving chronic pain for many patients. One of the challenges is that, in certain cases, a person’s pain is located in a very specific area, such as the feet. In order to block out that pain, a traditional stimulator might deliver excessive stimulation to other areas, such as the legs. That unwanted stimulation would then force the patient to use a lower level of stimulation that doesn’t relieve their pain as well. In the St. Jude ACCURATE study, they found that DRG stimulation allows doctors to focus the stimulation only on the areas that need it so that pain patterns that were previously difficult to treat can now get much greater relief. “

The St. Jude Medical AxiumTM Neurostimulator System

Arizona Pain Specialists used the St. Jude Medical Axium™ Neurostimulator System that was specifically designed for the DRG stimulation implantation. St. Jude Medical believes that this system will help make DRG stimulation more widely available.

Allen Burton, M.D., medical director of neuromodulation and vice president of medical affairs at St. Jude Medical, notes that this new device has the potential to treat patients who have felt they were beyond treatment:

“St. Jude Medical is focused on providing physicians with more options to treat patients suffering from a wide range of chronic pain conditions, no matter where in the body the patient may experience pain. The addition of DRG stimulation to our portfolio demonstrates our continued commitment to ensuring physicians have the broadest range of meaningful chronic pain therapy options. It is exciting to bring DRG to the clinic because it potentially opens the door to a cutting-edge treatment option for patients suffering from this chronic, debilitating disease, who may have lost hope. This population now has access to a new, research-backed approach for targeting this pain.”

Research on DRG stimulation

While this new procedure may sound too good to be true for some pain patients, there is data to back up the claims of pain relief. A long-term study found that after 12 months, the following results were achieved:

  • More patients found pain relief and treatment success with DRG stimulation when compared to SCS (74.2% vs. 53%)
  • The vast majority of patients reported better-targeted relief of pain with DRG stimulation when compared to SCS (94.5% vs. 61.2%)
  • Over 33% of patients in the study experienced 80% pain relief or better without any tingling sensation

Robert Levy, M.D., director of the Marcus Neuroscience Institute in Boca Raton, Florida, and co-principal investigator of the ACCURATE study, is pleased with what the data has shown, noting:

“DRG stimulation represents hope to many patients eager for more meaningful treatment options for complex and hard-to-treat neuropathic chronic pain conditions. The data from the ACCURATE study have shown us that DRG stimulation yields long term meaningful pain relief for patients with complex regional pain syndrome and peripheral causalgia. The results of this trial are very exciting for those of us who treat patients with these debilitating conditions.”

Practically speaking, all of this research means that DRG stimulation is another promising treatment option for those patients who may have lost hope of ever being pain-free. Tory L. McJunkin, M.D., medical director of Arizona Pain Specialists, explains what performing this first treatment means for pain patients, noting:

“Our practice is committed to finding the least invasive and most effective treatments to help those who suffer from chronic pain.

[This] therapy is an exciting cutting-edge treatment option for many who have failed other treatments. Our practice’s purpose is to provide hope and restore life for those who desperately need it.”

If you are experiencing refractory chronic pain and believe that DRG stimulation might be a good option, talk to your doctor today.