Thalamic field potentials in chronic central pain treated by periventricular gray stimulation -- a series of eight cases.
Nandi D., Aziz T., Carter H., Stein J.
Chronic deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the periventricular gray (PVG) has been used for the treatment of chronic central pain for decades. In recent years motor cortex stimulation (MCS) has largely supplanted DBS in the surgical management of intractable neuropathic pain of central origin. However, MCS provides satisfactory pain relief in about 50-75% of cases, a range comparable to that reported for DBS (none of the reports are in placebo-controlled studies and hence the further need for caution in evaluating and comparing these results). Our experience also suggests that there is still a role for DBS in the control of central pain. Here we present a series of eight consecutive cases of intractable chronic pain of central origin treated with PVG DBS with an average follow-up of 9 months. In each case, two electrodes were implanted in the PVG and the ventroposterolateral thalamic nucleus, respectively, under guidance of corneal topography/magnetic resonance imaging image fusion. The PVG was stimulated in the frequency range of 2-100 Hz in alert patients while pain was assessed using the McGill-Melzack visual analogue scale. In addition, local field potentials (FPs) were recorded from the sensory thalamus during PVG stimulation. Maximum pain relief was obtained with 5-35 Hz stimulation while 50-100 Hz made the pain worse. This suggests that pain suppression was frequency dependent. Interestingly, we detected low frequency thalamic FPs at 0.2-0.4 Hz closely associated with the pain. During 5-35 Hz PVG stimulation the amplitude of this potential was significantly reduced and this was associated with marked pain relief. At the higher frequencies (50-100 Hz), however, there was no reduction in the FPs and no pain suppression. We have found an interesting and consistent correlation between thalamic electrical activity and chronic pain. This low frequency potential may provide an objective index for quantifying chronic pain, and may hold further clues to the mechanism of action of PVG stimulation. It may be possible to use the presence of these slow FPs and the effect of trial PVG DBS on both the clinical status and the FPs to predict the probable success of future pain control in individual patients.