Treatment of nonsurgical refractory back pain with high-frequency spinal cord stimulation at 10 kHz: 12-month results of a pragmatic, multicenter, randomized controlled trial

Leonardo Kapural, Jessica Jameson, Curtis Johnson, Daniel Kloster, Aaron Calodney, Peter Kosek, Julie Pilitsis, Markus Bendel, Erika Petersen, Chengyuan Wu, Taissa Cherry, Shivanand P. Lad, Cong Yu, Dawood Sayed, Johnathan Goree, Mark K. Lyons, Andrew Sack, Diana Bruce, Frances Rubenstein, Rose Province-AzaldeDavid Caraway, Naresh P. Patel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) at 10 kHz (10-kHz SCS) is a safe and effective therapy for treatment of chronic low-back pain. However, it is unclear from existing evidence whether these findings can be generalized to patients with chronic back pain that is refractory to conventional medical management (CMM) and who have no history of spine surgery and are not acceptable candidates for spine surgery. The authors have termed this condition “nonsurgical refractory back pain” (NSRBP) and conducted a multicenter, randomized controlled trial to compare CMM with and without 10-kHz SCS in this population. METHODS Patients with NSRBP, as defined above and with a spine surgeon consultation required for confirmation, were randomized 1:1 to patients undergoing CMM with and without 10-kHz SCS. CMM included nonsurgical treatment for back pain, according to physicians’ best practices and clinical guidelines. Primary and secondary endpoints included the responder rate (≥ 50% pain relief), disability (Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]), global impression of change, quality of life (EQ-5D-5L), and change in daily opioid use and were analyzed 3 and 6 months after randomization. The protocol allowed for an optional crossover at 6 months for both arms, with observational follow-up over 12 months. RESULTS In total, 159 patients were randomized; 76 received CMM, and 69 (83.1%) of the 83 patients who were assigned to the 10-kHz SCS group received a permanent implant. At the 3-month follow-up, 80.9% of patients who received stimulation and 1.3% of those who received CMM were found to be study responders (primary outcome, ≥ 50% pain relief; p < 0.001). There was also a significant difference between the treatment groups in all secondary outcomes at 6 months (p < 0.001). In the 10-kHz SCS arm, outcomes were sustained, including a mean 10-cm visual analog scale score of 2.1 ± 2.3 and 2.1 ± 2.2 and mean ODI score of 24.1 ± 16.1 and 24.0 ± 17.0 at 6 and 12 months, respectively (p = 0.9). In the CMM arm, 74.7% (56/75) of patients met the criteria for crossover and received an implant. The crossover arm obtained a 78.2% responder rate 6 months postimplantation. Five serious adverse events occurred (procedure-related, of 125 total permanent implants), all of which resolved without sequelae. CONCLUSIONS The study results, which included follow-up over 12 months, provide important insights into the durability of 10-kHz SCS therapy with respect to chronic refractory back pain, physical function, quality of life, and opioid use, informing the current clinical practice for pain management in patients with NSRBP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-199
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • 10-kHz SCS
  • high-frequency
  • low-back pain
  • lumbar
  • nonsurgical refractory back pain
  • pain management
  • spinal cord stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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