Prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, crossover clinical trial.
To determine the efficacy of gabapentin in the treatment of neuropathic pain related to spinal cord injury.
Neuropathic pain is initiated or caused by a primary lesion or dysfunction in the nervous system. Neuropathic pain associated with spinal cord injury is quite refractory, and current treatments are not effective. Gabapentin, an anticonvulsant, has become the first choice in the treatment of neuropathic pain. The place of gabapentin in the treatment of spinal cord injury-related neuropathic pain was questioned in only a few recent reports; however, they are retrospectively designed, nonstandardized, and uncontrolled studies, or involve a very small series of patients using less than optimum doses.
A total of 18-week study period included a 4-week medication/placebo titration period. This was followed by a 4-week stable dosing period when the patients continued to receive maximum tolerated doses, a 2-week washout period, then a crossover of 4 weeks of medication/placebo titration, and another 4 weeks of stable dosing period. Twenty paraplegic patients (female/male: 7/13) with complete spinal cord injury at the thoracic and lumbar level, aged between 20 and 65 years, with neuropathic pain for more than 6 months were recruited for the study.
All patients completed the study. Gabapentin reduced the intensity as well as the frequency of pain, relieved all neuropathic pain descriptors except the itchy, sensitive, dull, and cold types, and improved the quality of life (P < 0.05).
Gabapentin can be added to the list of first-line medications for the treatment of chronic neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury patients. It is a promising new agent and offers advantages over currently available treatments.