Improving care of chronic pain patients with spinal cord stimulator therapy amidst the opioid epidemic


Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center


The US government and other key stakeholders including professional medical bodies have amended recommendations in recent years to emphasize using no opioids or the lowest effective dose of opioids needed for treatment of chronic pain. However, there remains an unmet need for pain treatments that can both relieve the pain of patients and reduce the doses of opioids they require. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is currently considering such treatments through the SUPPORT ACT and has recently conferred with the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inter-agency Pain Management Task Force to consider such therapies. We reviewed literature evidence in PubMed on pain relief and opioid reduction following spinal cord stimulation (SCS) treatment. SCS presents an effective non-pharmacologic pain treatment modality that has been used for decades to reduce chronic pain from trauma or neuropathy and has been shown to either stabilize or reduce opioid use in some patients with painful conditions. A more recently developed high-frequency SCS modality, 10 kHz SCS, has the advantage of being paresthesia-independent. It has been shown to be associated with significant reductions in opioid consumption after stimulation therapy was initiated, and many patients even taking high doses of opioids (> 90 mg morphine equivalent dose per day) were able to reduce their opioid intake to levels associated with less risk. The evidence shows that reduction of opioids as early in the treatment process as possible is desirable to reduce patient risk and improve pain relief from stimulation therapy.

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