Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) stimulation is a new type of therapy that can help those who suffer from chronic neuropathic pain or complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Neuropathic pain is pain caused by damage to or malfunction of the nerves themselves. The peripheral nervous system includes all the nerves that lead to and from the spinal cord. The nerves transmit pain signals to the brain. If the nerves are injured, neuropathic pain may develop. Chronic neuropathic pain can be challenging to treat because it can be difficult to pinpoint where and how the nerves are damaged.
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What is the dorsal root ganglion?
The dorsal root ganglion is a bundle of nerve cell bodies located within the posterior region of various vertebrae along the spinal column. It is adjacent to the dorsal nerve root. The primary function of the dorsal root ganglion is to transmit information regarding your senses. As such, the dorsal root ganglion carries sensory neural signals from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system, which includes your spinal cord and brain.
DRG stimulation consists of electrical leads, an optional extension, and an implantable pulse generator. The electrical leads are threaded into the epidural space and from there, into the intervertebral foraman, in which the DRG lies. Each lead is tipped by four electrode contacts that are placed over the DRG. A non-rechargeable pulse generator is implanted in a pocket either in the upper buttock/low back, or, with an extension, into the abdominal wall. In the period after surgery the leads can be programmed to give stimulation based on the pain pattern. Patients go home with a small hand-held controller that switches between stimulation settings.
DRG stimulation is pretty identical to traditional spinal cord stimulation (SCS), with one very important difference. Rather than placing leads in a general region of the spinal cord, DRG stimulation targets the specific regions of the spinal cord that are transmitting the pain and shuts down those painful signals directly by placing the leads directly over the DRG’s.
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