Efficacy and Safety of Cervical and High-Thoracic Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation Therapy for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome of the Upper Extremities

Published:November 16, 2022DOI:



      The purpose of this study was to evaluate analgesic and safety considerations for high thoracic and cervical dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neuromodulation for complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). We hypothesized that DRG neuromodulation would provide sustained analgesia with complications like that of low thoracic or lumbar electrode implantation.

      Materials and Methods

      A single-center, retrospective study was conducted of patients with CRPS I or II of the upper extremities, refractory to previous therapies, who were treated with DRG neuromodulation in the upper thoracic and cervical spine. The primary outcome was successful DRG therapy, defined as ≥ 50% pain relief on a Numeric Rating Scale (NRS) 0 to 10 pain scale at six months after implantation. A secondary outcome was a reduction in daily opioid use after DRG therapy.


      After a DRG stimulation trial, 17 of 20 patients (85%) had ≥ 50% improvement in NRS pain and underwent a permanent pulse generator implant, with 100% endorsing ≥ 50% pain relief at six months. Mean NRS pain scores before DRG neuromodulation were 9.3 ± 1.1, with a mean reduction of 5.5 (95% CI, 4.5–6.6; p < 0.001) at six months. Ten patients were taking opioids at baseline; the median (interquartile range) dose was 45 mg (23 to 120) morphine equivalents (MME), which was reduced to 20 MME (15 to 40) at six months. The median reduction in daily MME use was −25 (95% CI, −100 to 20; p = 0.099). Six of 20 patients (30%) experienced a complication: three had lead migration; two experienced paresthesias; and one had a reduction in shoulder mobility. One patient had symptoms of a reversible spinal cord compression immediately after implant, requiring emergent electrode removal.


      DRG neuromodulation for patients with CRPS of the upper extremities produced clinically important analgesia and reduced opioid use for ≥ six months but was associated with one serious complication.


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