Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) Stimulation Q&A
Living with chronic pain affects both body and mind. Complex and chronic pain is a debilitating and painful condition where a high level of nerve impulses are sent to a particular site in your body. 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). Chronic pain symptoms include a burning or freezing feeling, throbbing pain, numbness, sensitivity to touch and loss of coordination.
Traditionally, chronic pain treatment plans have included prescription medications, physical therapy, nerve blocks, and surgery. When these treatments fail, chronic pain patients turn to spinal cord stimulation to block pain signals from reaching the brain. Research finds that 40 to 50% of people with chronic pain can achieve relief from spinal cord stimulation
Now a groundbreaking new treatment for chronic pain sufferers focuses on the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) for pain relief. DRG therapy is a non-opioid therapy designed to manage difficult-to-treat chronic pain in specific areas of the lower body, such as the foot, knee, or groin. Pain in those areas is sometimes related to a cluster of nerves called the dorsal root ganglia.
What is it?
To help people with chronic pain find relief and live healthier, fuller lives the Dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurostimulation system was developed by Abbott. The DRG stimulation therapy involves surgically placing a stimulator that targets the dorsal root ganglion to relieve pain of the lower limbs due to complex regional pain syndrome. Individuals have a hand-held iPod controller that changes the stimulation settings within prescribed limits. The DRG technology expands the neurostimulation patient pool by enabling more treatment of patients that couldn’t be effectively treated before.
- 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.
How does it work?
DRG therapy works by stimulating dorsal root ganglia (DRGs). These are structures along the spinal column made up of densely populated sensory nerves, and they act like traffic lights, regulating signals and sensations that travel through nerve fibers along the spinal column to the brain. Stimulating these structures can reduce pain in specific locations in your body.
It is a 3-part system that includes the following components:
- The Generator: A small device that sends out mild electrical pulses and that contains a battery. This is implanted in your body.
- Leads: Thin insulated wires that carry the electrical pulses from the generator to your dorsal root ganglia. These are placed in your body in the area of the DRG.
- Patient Controller: A handheld “remote control” that allows you to adjust the strength of stimulation or even turn stimulation off.
What are the advantages?
The Abbott Proclaim DRG neurostimulation system is the only FDA approved technology for complex regional pain syndrome. DRG stimulation is clinically proven to provide superior and sustainable pain relief and quality of improvement for patients with focal chronic pain. The technology is backed by accurate clinical trial results. Study results show significant reduction of pain and overall improvement in physical functions.
One of the benefits of DRG therapy is that you can be fitted with a temporary device that works like an implanted system but can be removed. This allows you and Dr. Maheshwari to determine if DRG therapy is effective for your pain before undergoing an implant.