A new study suggests that high-frequency spinal cord stimulation (SCS), also known as HF10, may be more effective in providing relief to patients reporting back and leg pain than traditional low-frequency SCS is.
Spinal cord stimulation is an increasingly popular medical procedure that floods the spinal cord with weak electric currents through a set of electrodes. Doctors usually recommend the treatment to patients that are affected by back pain or other neuropathic pains.
Low-frequency SCS uses 50 Hz electric pulses, but the new research found that 1,000 to 10,000 Hz may be more effective and more rapid in blocking pain signals. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore published a paper on their findings in the medical journal Anesthesiology.
Researchers now hope that their findings may help doctors chose the treatment best suited to their patients’ needs.
Study authors based their research on previous lab mouse experiments. Two years ago, a research team noticed that mice with nerve damage showed signs of pain relief and recovery with SCS procedure within three days. They also observed that high-frequency SCS (1 to 10 kHz) was more effective than the 50 Hz version and showed promising results from day one. However, frequency higher than 10 kHZ had no benefits for mice.
Scientists also assessed how effective the new method was in tuning down nerve excitability. They learned that high-frequency SCS modified the nerves’ conducting properties, making them less sensitive.
During the new study, researchers found another benefit of HF10. They learned that the procedure does not trigger paresthesia, a sensation commonly known as “pins and needles,” like conventional SCS does.
Dr. Leonardo Kapural, senior author of the study and anesthesiology expert at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said that the new treatment may provide a precious alternative to patients that currently use opiods as pain killers. Opioids have limitations because the body may not respond to them after a lengthy treatment, plus they can give addiction.
“Given the prevalence of chronic pain, high frequency SCS is an exciting advance for our patients,”
Dr. Kapural added.
The study involved 171 patients. Ninety agreed to undergo HF10, while the rest stuck with the conventional SCS. Three months later, over 83 percent of back and leg pain patients treated with HF10 reported more than 50 percent reduction in pain intensity. In the low-frequency SCS group only 44 percent to 56 percent experienced a similar pain relief, researchers reported.
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