The Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG) is a small bundle of nerves connected to each vertebra along your spine. The DRG is critical in processing pain signals and transmitting them to your brain. They have a particularly important role in how you experience pain. The DRG act as the body’s internal traffic light: they control when signals can enter the spinal cord, therefore allowing pain signals to travel to the brain.
The Dorsal Root Ganglion neurons modify your sensory perception (how you feel pain) before transmitting the signal to your spinal cord and central nervous system. This makes DRG stimulation an effective treatment approach for patients with chronic pain.
What is Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation?
Dorsal Root Ganglion stimulation utilizes a pulse generator that is implanted on the spine. The implant uses small electrical leads which are threaded into the epidural space where the DRG lies. The leads send a small electrical impulse to the area where the DRG is located. The impulses create a stimulation that can make the Dorsal Root Ganglion create a “red light.” This blocks pain signals from that specific area traveling to the brain.
The impulses either create a slight tingling sensation in the affected area, or has the ability to stop the pain altogether.
Benefits of DRG Stimulation
There are four specific benefits of targeting the Dorsal Root Ganglion for pain relief:
- Directed Targeting: Because the stimulator is implanted exactly where the pain is rooted, DRG stimulation has the ability to provide pain relief in a very specific area. The accuracy of this treatment has proven effective in 94.5% of patients who received targeted areas of pain.
- Low Energy: DRG stimulators use a tiny amount of energy – only about 10% of the energy that is required from a conventional spinal cord stimulator. The batteries in the DRG stimulator last longer because of the low energy requirement.
- Low Risk of Lead Migration: The DRG stimulators are tucked into a small space, limiting the chances of lead migration. There is reported less than 1% migration rate, whereas a traditional SCS reports an approximate 14% migration rate.
- Minimal Effects on Body Position: Due to the DRG’s location in the epidural space, the cerebrospinal fluid in between electrodes does not affect the patient’s posture or body position. The stimulation patterns remain constant regardless of any changes in the body’s position. Whether lying down, sitting down, standing, or walking, the patient receives the same pattern.
Your physician will first implant a trial DRG Stimulator using fluoroscopic guidance. Data is collected from this and evaluated to determine whether or not a permanent stimulator is beneficial.
ASRA: Dorsal Root Ganglion Stimulation
Cleveland Clinic: DRG Stimulation for CRPS