Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation (DRG)


 

Pain. Discomfort. Pins-and-needles. You have been living with pain for several months following an injury or stroke. Pain medication worked at first, but now you can’t tell a difference. You have been through physical therapy, but at times, that just made the pain worse. You no longer care how your pain is treated, just that you can undergo something that will make it go away! Fortunately, your doctor has an answer--dorsal root ganglion stimulation.

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation (DRGS) is recommended for patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) following an injury, stroke or heart attack. Patients who are experiencing failed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) also experience a vast reduction in pain when undergoing DRGS.

What is the dorsal root ganglion?

Your backbone is made up of 26 individual bones called vertebrae (singular: vertebra). Your spinal cord is protected by these bones, and it, along with your brain, make up your central nervous system. At the bottom and top of each vertebra, there is a nerve root ganglion (a structure that contains several nerve cell bodies) that branches off of the spinal cord to the peripheral nervous system.

The dorsal root ganglion is where the nerve messages enter the spinal cord; conversely, the ventral root ganglion is where the nerve messages leave the spinal cord. The dorsal root ganglion serves as a sort of information gateway--it allows messages into the spinal cord. Unfortunately for some, that message may be “pain” more often than not.

What is dorsal root ganglion stimulation?

Chronic pain due to complex regional pain syndrome or failed back surgery syndrome that does not respond well to medication might be treatable with dorsal root ganglion stimulation. DRGS uses specially-designed electrodes that are inserted under the skin near the dorsal root ganglion. These electrodes send out electrical impulses that are controlled by a small battery that is inserted under the skin in the lower back. These electrical impulses reduce the amount of discomfort and pain experienced by patients. Or, the impulses can replace pain with a slight tingling feeling. The equipment has four leads, meaning four dorsal root ganglions can be stimulated by one battery. The patient has a small remote control that he/she can use to manage how much stimulation they receive.

DRGS is reversible and doesn’t cause any permanent change to the nerves. After a designated amount of time, the electrodes and battery pack can be removed. In addition, patients can undergo the stimulation again if pain resurfaces. Most patients experience at least a 50% reduction of pain. While getting used to using the equipment and adjusting the impulses takes time, most patients find a “sweet spot” for themselves shortly after the procedure and begin to experience less pain.

What are the benefits of dorsal root ganglion stimulation?

DRGS works directly in the area where the pain signals originate. Remember, the dorsal root ganglion serves as a gateway to allow signals to enter the spinal cord. And since there are four leads, you can receive impulses to your specific sites of pain. Also, only small amounts of energy are necessary for the electrodes, the battery pack lasts months. With dorsal root ganglion stimulation, the need for medication is unnecessary because the pain relief is specifically targeted. It also reduces the overall stimulation of the nervous system and reduces the sensation of pins-and-needles in the body. Lastly, and most importantly, dorsal root ganglion stimulation provides patients the opportunity to experience life with dramatically diminished pain.

What are the risks of DRGS?

Dorsal root ganglion stimulation is relatively risk-free. Electrical impulses do not alter the nerves and pose no risk to the nervous system. However, minor surgery is involved, so there is risk of infection and minor bleeding at the site of the insertions. Other risks include a reaction to local anesthesia and possibly a reaction to the medication used during the procedure. To avoid these risks, talk openly and specifically about your medical history with your doctor. 

Will dorsal root ganglion stimulation work for me?

If you have experienced chronic, intractable pain for at least six months following surgery, injury, stroke or heart attack, you may be a candidate for DRGS. In addition, if you are experiencing chronic pain that doesn’t respond to medication or physical therapy, DRGS could work for you. DRGS treats diabetic peripheral neuropathy when other treatments for that condition failed. If surgery is not an option for you or you have elected to avoid surgery, dorsal root ganglion stimulation can provide pain relief. Or, if you are experiencing pain after a surgery that just won’t go away, DRGS can be a viable option.

Conclusion

In 2016, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved dorsal root ganglion stimulation for treatment of chronic pain. DRGS is a minor surgical procedure that allows you to be in control of your pain relief without the use of medication or invasive surgery. It successfully treats complex regional pain syndrome and failed back surgery syndrome--two conditions that cause excruciating pain and do not respond well to other treatments. If you have been living with chronic pain for more than six months, DRGS can provide you with relief. Don’t live in pain any longer. Talk to your doctor about DRGS today!

Call Dr. Jay M. Shah of SamWell Institute for Pain Management today or book an appointment online at one of the office locations in West Orange or Colonia, New Jersey.

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