More than 60% of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients have chronic discomfort, a clinical issue that is getting less attention. Chronic long-term pain is linked to low quality of life (QoL), mood instability, and possible brain imbalance in circuits of the pain matrix. For a study, researchers sought to assess how transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) affected patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) receiving hemodialysis (HD) for pain, quality of life (QoL), depression, anxiety, and affectivity.

About 30 patients with chronic pain who were receiving HD participated in this double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled experiment. Anodal motor cortex stimulation (M1/Sp2 montage) at 2 mA intensity for 20 min was administered during 10 separate, non-consecutive sessions to participants who were assigned to either Active tDCS or Sham tDCS. Numeric rating scale (NRS) data were obtained for the primary endpoint of pain at baseline, immediately following the 10th day of the intervention, 1 week, 2 weeks, and 4 weeks following the last stimulation. Before and after the intervention, data on QoL, depression, anxiety, and affectivity were gathered as secondary outcomes.

In a mixed ANOVA model, the main effects of group (P=0.03) were significantly correlated with the interaction between group and time on pain F(4.112) = 3.106, P=0.01. There was a substantial improvement in QoL (P=0.009), overall health (P=0.03), tiredness (P=0.05), symptoms (P=0.05), depression (P=0.01), and anxiety (P=0.01) before and after the intervention. Affectivity showed no differences.

Anodal tDCS across the motor cortex appeared to be a promising treatment strategy for enhancing pain, quality of life, and mood in ESRD patients.