A team of Massachusetts General Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital researchers have shown that transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) administered on the scalp has the ability to stimulate the brain and help reduce phantom limb pain (PLP).
The team studied the brain-stimulation method in 54 patients who had amputations due to landmine explosions, something that affects as many as 25,000 people a year worldwide. They used the results of patients given transcranial brain stimulation (rTMS) and a placebo to see if the procedure could provide major relief from PLP.
“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 Dr. Ronald G. Garcia, M.D., Ph.D. at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
PLP is a condition where a person who had a limb amputated still feels a lingering pain due to nerve endings that continue to send pain signals to the brain, even though the limb is no longer there. The American Pain Society has said that this condition 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,” Garcia said.
The team also cited that the pain relief observed could be from the effect of rTMS over the central pathophysiological mechanisms related to PLP.