Spinal Cord Stimulation for Pain Treatment After Spinal Cord Injury

  • Qian Huang
  • Wanru Duan
  • Eellan Sivanesan
  • Shuguang Liu
  • Fei Yang
  • Zhiyong Chen
  • Neil C. Ford
  • Xueming Chen
  • Yun GuanEmail author


In addition to restoration of bladder, bowel, and motor functions, alleviating the accompanying debilitating pain is equally important for improving the quality of life of patients with spinal cord injury (SCI). Currently, however, the treatment of chronic pain after SCI remains a largely unmet need. Electrical spinal cord stimulation (SCS) has been used to manage a variety of chronic pain conditions that are refractory to pharmacotherapy. Yet, its efficacy, benefit profiles, and mechanisms of action in SCI pain remain elusive, due to limited research, methodological weaknesses in previous clinical studies, and a lack of mechanistic exploration of SCS for SCI pain control. We aim to review recent studies and outline the therapeutic potential of different SCS paradigms for traumatic SCI pain. We begin with an overview of its manifestations, classification, potential underlying etiology, and current challenges for its treatment. The clinical evidence for using SCS in SCI pain is then reviewed. Finally, future perspectives of pre-clinical research and clinical study of SCS for SCI pain treatment are discussed.


Pain Trauma Spinal cord injury Spinal cord stimulation Neuromodulation Analgesia 



This review was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD (R01NS70814 and R21NS99879 to YG). The authors thank Claire F. Levine, MS, ELS (Scientific Editor, Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University) for editing the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, CAS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qian Huang
    • 1
  • Wanru Duan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Eellan Sivanesan
    • 1
  • Shuguang Liu
    • 1
    • 3
  • Fei Yang
    • 4
  • Zhiyong Chen
    • 1
  • Neil C. Ford
    • 1
  • Xueming Chen
    • 5
  • Yun Guan
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, School of MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Neurosurgery, Xuanwu HospitalCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedics, Hong Hui Hospital, Affiliated Hospital of the Medical SchoolXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  4. 4.Department of NeurobiologyCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of Orthopedics, Luhe HospitalCapital Medical UniversityBeijingChina
  6. 6.Department of Neurological Surgery, School of MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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