Spinal cord stimulation for visceral pain: Present approaches and future strategies

Royce W. Woodroffe, Amy C. Pearson, Amy M. Pearlman, Matthew A. Howard, Haring J.W. Nauta, S. J. Nagel, Y. S. Hori, Andre G. MacHado, Leonardo Almeida Frizon, Logan Helland, Marshall T. Holland, George T. Gillies, Saul Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Introduction. The introduction of successful neuromodulation strategies for managing chronic visceral pain lag behind what is now treatment of choice in refractory chronic back and extremity pain for many providers in the United States and Europe. Changes in public policy and monetary support to identify nonopioid treatments for chronic pain have sparked interest in alternative options. In this review, we discuss the scope of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) for visceral pain, its limitations, and the potential role for new intradural devices of the type that we are developing in our laboratories, which may be able to overcome existing challenges. Methods. A review of the available literature relevant to this topic was performed, with particular focus on the pertinent neuroanatomy and uses of spinal cord stimulation systems in the treatment of malignant and nonmalignant gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and chronic pelvic pain. Results. To date, there have been multiple off-label reports testing SCS for refractory gastrointestinal and genitourinary conditions. Though some findings have been favorable for these organs and systems, there is insufficient evidence to make this practice routine. The unique configuration and layout of the pelvic pain pathways may not be ideally treated using traditional SCS implantation techniques, and intradural stimulation may be a viable alternative. Conclusions. Despite the prevalence of visceral pain, the application of neuromodulation therapies, a standard approach for other painful conditions, has received far too little attention, despite promising outcomes from uncontrolled trials. Detailed descriptions of visceral pain pathways may offer several clues that could be used to implement devices tailored to this unique anatomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2298-2309
Number of pages12
JournalPain Medicine (United States)
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Dorsal Root Ganglion
  • Intradural Stimulation
  • Postsynaptic Dorsal Column
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation
  • Visceral Pain


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