The objective of this review was to merge current treatment guidelines and best practice recommendations for management of neuropathic pain into a comprehensive algorithm for primary physicians. The algorithm covers assessment, multidisciplinary conservative care, nonopioid pharmacological management, interventional therapies, neurostimulation, low-dose opioid treatment, and targeted drug delivery therapy.
Available literature was identified through a search of the US National Library of Medicine’s Medline database, PubMed.gov. References from identified published articles also were reviewed for relevant citations.
The algorithm provides a comprehensive treatment pathway from assessment to the provision of first- through sixth-line therapies for primary care physicians. Clear indicators for progression of therapy from firstline to sixth-line are provided. Multidisciplinary conservative care and nonopioid medications (tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, gabapentanoids, topicals, and transdermal substances) are recommended as firstline therapy; combination therapy (firstline medications) and tramadol and tapentadol are recommended as secondline; serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors/anticonvulsants/NMDA antagonists and interventional therapies as third-line; neurostimulation as a fourth-line treatment; low-dose opioids (no greater than 90 morphine equivalent units) are fifth-line; and finally, targeted drug delivery is the last-line therapy for patients with refractory pain.
The presented treatment algorithm provides clear-cut tools for the assessment and treatment of neuropathic pain based on international guidelines, published data, and best practice recommendations. It defines the benefits and limitations of the current treatments at our disposal. Additionally, it provides an easy-to-follow visual guide of the recommended steps in the algorithm for primary care and family practitioners to utilize.
The dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is a novel target for neuromodulation, and DRG stimulation is proving to be a viable option in the treatment of chronic intractable neuropathic pain. Although the overall principle of conventional spinal cord stimulation (SCS) and DRG stimulation—in which an electric field is applied to a neural target with the intent of affecting neural pathways to decrease pain perception—is similar, there are significant differences in the anatomy and physiology of the DRG that make it an ideal target for neuromodulation and may account for the superior outcomes observed in the treatment of certain chronic neuropathic pain states. This review highlights the anatomy of the DRG, its function in maintaining homeostasis and its role in neuropathic pain, and the unique value of DRG as a target in neuromodulation for pain.
A narrative literature review was performed.
Overall, the DRG is a critical structure in sensory transduction and modulation, including pain transmission and the maintenance of persistent neuropathic pain states. Unique characteristics including selective somatic organization, specialized membrane characteristics, and accessible and consistent location make the DRG an ideal target for neuromodulation. Because DRG stimulation directly recruits the somata of primary sensory neurons and harnesses the filtering capacity of the pseudounipolar neural architecture, it is differentiated from SCS, peripheral nerve stimulation, and other neuromodulation options.
There are several advantages to targeting the DRG, including lower energy usage, more focused and posture-independent stimulation, reduced paresthesia, and improved clinical outcomes.
Based on the available evidence, morphine and ziconotide are recommended as firstline IT monotherapy for cancer-related and non-cancer-related pain. The choice of first-in-pump therapy should take into consideration patient characteristics and the advantages and disadvantages of each medication.
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