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Intrathecal clonidine and baclofen enhance the pain-relieving effect of spinal cord stimulation: a comparative placebo-controlled, randomized trial.

Author(s): Schechtmann G, Lind G, Winter J, Meyerson BA, Linderoth B.

Affiliation(s): Department of Neurosurgery, Karolinska University Hospital and Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. gaston.schechtmann@karolinska.se

Publication date & source: 2010, Neurosurgery. , 67(1):173-81

OBJECTIVE: Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) is a well-established treatment for neuropathic pain; nevertheless, 40% of patients fail to obtain satisfactory pain relief and in many patients, the effect tends to diminish with time. Based on animal experiments, intrathecal baclofen was previously introduced clinically to enhance suboptimal SCS effects. Later animal experiments demonstrated similar data for clonidine. The aim of this study was to elucidate whether intrathecal clonidine or baclofen enhances the effect of SCS in neuropathic pain patients in whom the pain relieving-effect of SCS is inadequate. METHODS: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted with 10 patients experiencing neuropathic pain with insufficient pain relief with SCS alone. Clonidine, baclofen, and saline (control) were intrathecally administered by bolus injections in combination with SCS. RESULTS: Seven of 10 patients reported significant pain reduction when SCS was combined with active drugs. The mean visual analog scale ratings were reduced by more than 50% with either drug combined with SCS. Four patients previously treated with SCS alone later underwent implantation of a pump for long-term administration of clonidine or baclofen. In the 2 patients with clonidine pumps with a mean follow-up of 15 months, the combined therapy produced pain reduction of 55% and 45%, respectively. The corresponding effect with baclofen was 32% and 82%, respectively, at 7 months follow-up. CONCLUSION: A trial with clonidine and baclofen combined with SCS may be warranted in patients who do not obtain satisfactory pain relief with SCS alone or experienced a decreasing therapeutic effect.

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