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Brain Stimulation Technique Shown Effective for Phantom Limb Pain

A new study, published in The Journal of Pain, shows that transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) administered to the scalp can stimulate the brain and provide significant reductions in phantom limb pain (PLP).

A team of researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital evaluated the benefits of the method in 54 patients. They compared results of patients given transcranial brain stimulation and a placebo treatment to determine if the procedure could provide significant relief from PLP, which occurs in up to 87 percent of amputation cases.

“Phantom limb pain is a very challenging condition for its negative impact on quality of life and lack of treatment response, especially in those with traumatic-related amputations,” said co-author Ronald G. Garcia, MD, PhD, at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Previous reports have suggested there are analgesic benefits of rTMS for people with PLP. In one randomized clinical trial with 27 subjects, results showed that five consecutive sessions of rTMS induced a significant analgesic effect, which lasted up to two months in 39 percent of subjects.

“In our current study, results showed that treatment with rTMS for two weeks induced a clinically significant pain reduction in 70 percent of traumatic amputees with phantom limb pain up to 15 days after treatment with no serious side effects,” said Garcia.

This article was adapted from information provided by APS.