Deep Brain Stimulation, Stereotactic Radiosurgery and High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Targeting the Limbic Pain Matrix: A Comprehensive Review

Martin Nüssel, Yining Zhao, Constantin Knorr, Martin Regensburger, Andreas Stadlbauer, Michael Buchfelder, Alessandro Del Vecchio, Thomas Kinfe

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Review article

Abstract

Chronic pain (CP) represents a socio-economic burden for affected patients along with therapeutic challenges for currently available therapies. When conventional therapies fail, modulation of the affective pain matrix using reversible deep brain stimulation (DBS) or targeted irreversible thalamotomy by stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and magnetic resonance (MR)-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) appear to be considerable treatment options. We performed a literature search for clinical trials targeting the affective pain circuits (thalamus, anterior cingulate cortex [ACC], ventral striatum [VS]/internal capsule [IC]). PubMed, Ovid, MEDLINE and Scopus were searched (1990-2021) using the terms "chronic pain", "deep brain stimulation", "stereotactic radiosurgery", "radioneuromodulation", "MR-guided focused ultrasound", "affective pain modulation", "pain attention". In patients with CP treated with DBS, SRS or MRgFUS the somatosensory thalamus and periventricular/periaquaeductal grey was the target of choice in most treated subjects, while affective pain transmission was targeted in a considerably lower number (DBS, SRS) consisting of the following nodi of the limbic pain matrix: the anterior cingulate cortex; centromedian-parafascicularis of the thalamus, pars posterior of the central lateral nucleus and internal capsule/ventral striatum. Although DBS, SRS and MRgFUS promoted a meaningful and sustained pain relief, an effective, evidence-based comparative analysis is biased by heterogeneity of the observation period varying between 3 months and 5 years with different stimulation patterns (monopolar/bipolar contact configuration; frequency 10-130 Hz; intensity 0.8-5 V; amplitude 90-330 μs), source and occurrence of lesioning (radiation versus ultrasound) and chronic pain ethology (poststroke pain, plexus injury, facial pain, phantom limb pain, back pain). The advancement of neurotherapeutics (MRgFUS) and novel DBS targets (ACC, IC/VS), along with established and effective stereotactic therapies (DBS-SRS), increases therapeutic options to impact CP by modulating affective, pain-attentional neural transmission. Differences in trial concept, outcome measures, targets and applied technique promote conflicting findings and limited evidence. Hence, we advocate to raise awareness of the potential therapeutic usefulness of each approach covering their advantages and disadvantages, including such parameters as invasiveness, risk-benefit ratio, reversibility and responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)459-476
Number of pages18
JournalPain and Therapy
Volume11
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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