Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), is a difficult to treat condition characterized by debilitating pain and limitations in functional ability. Neuromodulation, in the form of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS), have been traditionally used as a treatment for CRPS with variable success.
This chart review describes the use of implantable PNS systems in the treatment of CRPS of the upper and lower extremities spanning nearly three decades.
A retrospective chart review was performed on 240 patients with PNS implanted between 1990 and 2017 at our institution. Of these, 165 patients were identified who had PNS systems implanted for a diagnosis of CRPS. Patient profile, including baseline characteristics, comorbidities, past/current interventions/medications and targeted nerves, was descriptively summarized through standard summary statistics. Patients’ pain scores and opioid consumptions at baseline (preimplant), 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months were collected and compared. Device revisions and explants were summarized, and patient functional outcomes were described.
Pain scores at baseline and at 12-month follow-up were decreased from a mean of 7.4 ± 1.6 to 5.5 ± 2.4 and estimated to be 1.87 (95% CI: [1.29, 2.46], paired t-test p-value <0.001) lower at 12 months. At baseline, 62% of patients were on chronic opioid therapy, compared with 41% at 12 months. Of 126 patients who reported changes in functional status, 64 (51%) reported improvement, 27 (21%) reported worsening, and 35 (28%) did not report any meaningful change. Excluding end-of-life battery replacements, surgical revision occurred in 56 (34%) of patients. Thirteen patients (8%) underwent implantation of a second PNS because of symptomatic expansion outside of the original painful region. Device explant was performed in 32 (19%) of patients. Median length of follow-up was 74 [14, 147] months. Of the 36 patients who continue to follow-up at our institution, 29 (81%) continue to use their PNS.
We can conclude that PNS is a useful modality to improve function and reduce long-term pain in selected patients suffering from CRPS type I and type II.

© 2020 International Neuromodulation Society.