Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) Stimulation

Living with chronic pain affects not just your body but also your mind. It can make getting around and getting along equally difficult.

But with innovation in health technology comes hope. Abbott has developed a new device found to be more effective than traditional therapy at relieving chronic pain – Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) Stimulation.

About Chronic Pain

Dealing with chronic pain lasting more than six months is a way of life for 11 percent of Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Injuries and infections can cause pain and discomfort, but chronic pain happens when the nervous system doesn’t function properly. A common cause of chronic pain is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

CRPS is nerve damage that’s usually caused by an injury. Pain in the limbs may cause them to swell or change in color or temperature. Patients with confirmed nerve injuries are categorized as having CRPS-II (also known as causalgia), while patients without confirmed nerve injury are classified as having CRPS-I (previously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome or RSDS).

These conditions may cause chronic pain with signs and symptoms such as:

  • A burning or freezing feeling.
  • Throbbing pain.
  • Sharp, jabbing pain.
  • Pins and needles sensation.
  • Numbness.
  • The feeling a body part is being squeezed.
  • Sensitivity to touch.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Muscle weakness or an inability to move part of the body.

Treatment for Chronic Pain

Traditionally, doctors have prescribed medications to treat chronic pain, including opioids, which can lead to addiction and overdose. Treatment plans for chronic pain may also include physical therapy, psychological interventions, nerve blocks, and surgery.

When these treatments fail, people with chronic pain can turn to a different therapy. Spinal cord stimulation is an option that blocks pain signals from reaching the brain in the first place. For this treatment, a surgeon places a small device in your body that sends electrical signals to your spinal cord. Research has found that 40 to 50 percent of people who have CRPS achieve pain relief from spinal cord stimulation.

Although the development of traditional spinal cord stimulation was a big step forward, it still left many people without a solution to their chronic pain.

DRG Treatment

Researchers turned their attention to the dorsal root ganglion (DRG), a bundle of nerves located on the outside of the spinal cord.

The DRG was once thought to have no connection to pain, but researchers now know that this nerve bundle plays a key role in nerve pain for CRPS I and II patients. According to a 2017 study published in Pain, stimulating the DRG helps relieve pain more effectively than spinal cord stimulation.

To help people with chronic pain finally find relief and live healthier, fuller lives, Abbott launched the Proclaim™ DRG Neurostimulation System. This DRG stimulation therapy involves surgically placing a stimulator that targets the dorsal root ganglion to relieve pain of the lower limbs due to CRPS. Individuals have a hand-held iPod controller that changes the stimulation settings within prescribed limits.

This new technology has made a significant difference in the treatment of chronic pain. The 2017 Pain study found that people with chronic pain in a lower limb from CRPS experienced superior pain relief after 12 months with DRG stimulation. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 74.2 percent of people experienced meaningful pain relief with DRG stimulation, compared to 53 percent who received traditional spinal cord stimulation.
  • One-third had more than 80 percent pain relief and no tingling sensation, which is a common side effect with traditional spinal cord stimulation.
  • DRG stimulation led to a better quality of life compared to traditional spinal cord stimulation.

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