Treatment of medically refractory cancer pain with a combination of intrathecal neuromodulation and neurosurgical ablation: Case series and literature review

Academic Article


  • Up to 90% of patients with advanced cancer experience intractable pain. For these patients, oral analgesics are the mainstay of therapy, often augmented with intrathecal drug delivery. Neurosurgical ablative procedures have become less commonly used, though their efficacy has been well-established. Unfortunately, little is known about the safety of ablation in the context of previous neuromodulation. Therefore, the aim of this study is to present the results from a case series in which patients were treated successfully with a combination of intrathecal neuromodulation and neurosurgical ablation. Design: Retrospective case series and literature review. Setting: Three institutions with active cancer pain management programs in the United States. Methods: All patients who underwent both neuroablative and neuromodulatory procedures for cancer pain were surveyed using the visual analog scale prior to the first procedure, before and after a second procedure, and at long-term follow-up. Based on initial and subsequent presentation, patients underwent intrathecal morphine pump placement, cordotomy, or midline myelotomy. Results: Five patients (2 male, 3 female) with medically intractable pain (initial VAS=10) were included in the series. Four subjects were initially treated with intrathecal analgesic neuromodulation, and 1 with midline myelotomy. Each patient experienced recurrence of pain (VASā‰„9) following the initial procedure, and was therefore treated with another modality (intrathecal, N=1; midline myelotomy, N=1; percutaneous radiofrequency cordotomy, N=3), with significant long-term benefit (VAS 1-7). Conclusion: In cancer patients with medically intractable pain, intrathecal neuromodulation and neurosurgical ablation together may allow for more effective control of cancer pain.
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Pain Medicine  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bentley JN; Viswanathan A; Rosenberg WS; Patil PG
  • Start Page

  • 1488
  • End Page

  • 1495
  • Volume

  • 15
  • Issue

  • 9