Focused Ultrasound Central Lateral Thalamotomy for the Treatment of Refractory Neuropathic Pain

Neurosurgery 94:690–699, 2024

Magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) central lateral thalamotomy (CLT) has not yet been validated for treating refractory neuropathic pain (NP). Our aim was to assess the safety and potential efficacy of MRgFUS CLT for refractory NP.

METHODS: In this prospective, nonrandomized, single-arm, investigator-initiated phase I trial, patients with NP for more than 6 months related to phantom limb pain, spinal cord injury, or radiculopathy/radicular injury and who had undergone at least one previous failed intervention were eligible. The main outcomes were safety profile and pain as assessed using the brief pain inventory, the pain disability index, and the numeric rating scale. Medication use and the functional connectivity of the default mode network (DMN) were also assessed.

RESULTS: Ten patients were enrolled, with nine achieving successful ablation. There were no serious adverse events and 12 mild/moderate severity events. The mean age was 50.9 years (SD: 12.7), and the mean symptom duration was 12.3 years (SD: 9.7). Among eight patients with a 1-year follow-up, the brief pain inventory decreased from 7.6 (SD: 1.1) to 3.8 (SD: 2.8), with a mean percent decrease of 46.3 (SD: 40.6) (paired t-test, P = .017). The mean pain disability index decreased from 43.0 (SD: 7.5) to 25.8 (SD: 16.8), with a mean percent decrease of 39.3 (SD: 41.6) (P = .034). Numeric rating scale scores decreased from a mean of 7.2 (SD: 1.8) to 4.0 (SD: 2.8), with a mean percent decrease of 42.8 (SD: 37.8) (P = .024). Patients with predominantly intermittent pain or with allodynia responded better than patients with continuous pain or without allodynia, respectively. Some patients decreased medication use. Resting-state functional connectivity changes were noted, from disruption of the DMN at baseline to reactivation of connectivity between DMN nodes at 3 months.

CONCLUSION: MRgFUS CLT is feasible and safe for refractory NP and has potential utility in reducing symptoms as measured by validated pain scales.