What is the dorsal root ganglion?
The dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is a cluster of neurons in the spinal cord through which every signal sent by your nerves must pass. The neurons in the DRG both channel sensory signals and change them before they reach the rest of your spinal cord.
Stimulation of the dorsal root ganglion is a relatively new, but effective treatment, for patients with chronic pain conditions.
How does DRG stimulation work?
DRG stimulation works by transmitting electrical signals to the dorsal root ganglion, affecting pain signals from your nerves and changing them into more of a soothing tingle.
Dr. Carlson inserts the DRG generator under your skin, and you manage the electrical pulses to the dorsal root ganglion using a remote control. The procedure for implanting the DRG stimulator is very similar to implanting a spinal cord stimulator, the original implantable pain-control device that the DRG stimulator was developed from.
The way a DRG stimulator works is different from spinal cord stimulation (SCS) in one essential way. SCS masks the pain you feel by preventing pain signals getting through to your brain, whereas DRG stimulation alters the signals to ones that are more pleasant.
Why might I need DRG stimulation?
DRG stimulation is a valuable therapy for patients with chronic pain when other treatments don’t relieve their symptoms. It’s particularly beneficial for patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Chronic pain most often improves with noninvasive therapies or minimally invasive approaches, such as steroid injections and nerve blocks. However, some patients with chronic pain find they get little or no relief of their symptoms through these methods, despite many months of treatment.
In this case, DRG stimulation could be an ideal solution. Because DRG stimulation works differently, it could be effective when all other options are unsuccessful.
What’s involved in having a DRG implant?
Deciding to have surgery to implant a DRG stimulator is a big step, and it’s important to be sure the device will help relieve your pain before committing to the procedure. That’s why, before you go ahead with a permanent DRG stimulator implant, Dr. Carlson fits a temporary device that you try for a week.
If after the trial period you feel the improvement in your symptoms is significant enough, you can arrange with Dr. Carlson to undergo the full implantation procedure.
If you’d like to find out more about dorsal root ganglion stimulation and other advanced treatments for chronic pain, call Hawai’i Pain & Spine today or book an appointment online.