Efficacy of deep rTMS for neuropathic pain in the lower limb: a randomized, double-blind crossover trial of an H-coil and figure-8 coil

Background:

Electrical motor cortex stimulation can relieve neuropathic pain (NP), but its use requires patients to undergo an invasive procedure. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) of the primary motor cortex (M1) using a figure-8 coil can relieve NP noninvasively, but its ability to relieve lower limb pain is still limited. Deep rTMS using an H-coil can effectively stimulate deep brain regions and has been widely used for the treatment of various neurological diseases; however, there have been no clinical studies comparing the effectiveness of figure-8 coils and H-coils.

Objective:

This study assessed the clinical effectiveness of 5 once-daily stimulations with H-coils and figure-8 coils in patients with NP.

Methods:

This randomized, double-blind, 3-way crossover trial examined 18 patients with NP who sequentially received 3 types of stimulations in the M1 for 5 consecutive days; each 5-day stimulation period was followed by a 17-day follow-up period before crossing over to the next type of stimulation. During each rTMS session, patients received a 5-Hz rTMS to the M1 region corresponding to the painful lower limb. The visual analog scale (VAS) and the Japanese version of the short-form McGill Pain Questionnaire 2 (SF-MPQ2-J) were used to measure pain intensity. The primary outcome was VAS score reduction immediately after and 1 hour after intervention.

Results:

Both the VAS and SF-MPQ2-J showed significant pain improvement immediately after deep rTMS with an H-coil as compared with the sham group (p < 0.001 and p = 0.049, respectively). However, neither outcome measure showed significant pain improvement when using a figure-8 coil. The VAS also showed significantpain improvement 1 hour after deep rTMS with an H-coil (p = 0.004) but not 1 hour after rTMS using a figure-8 coil. None of the patients exhibited any serious adverse events.

Conclusions:

The current findings suggest that the use of deep rTMS with an H-coil in the lower limb region of the M1 in patients with NP was tolerable and could provide significant short-term pain relief.

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