Objectives: Patients eligible for spinal cord stimulation (SCS) generally experience excruciating pain, requiring more opioid consumption, which is usually an indication for SCS implantation. After final implantation, SCS has the ability to stabilize or decrease opioid usage in half of the patients. In this study, opioids were actively eliminated prior to implantation of any neuromodulation device with a standardized detoxification protocol. This pilot study aims to explore the feasibility, effectiveness, and safety of this opioid detoxification protocol prior to neuromodulation techniques.
Materials and methods: In this retrospective pilot study, 70 patients who were taking opioids and who were eligible for neuromodulation techniques underwent the detoxification program. A combined in- and out-patient clinic protocol was applied, whereby clonidine was the main component of both parts of the program. A multidisciplinary team with pain physicians and psychologists was responsible for performing this detoxification program. Safety and feasibility were systematically recorded during the hospitalization.
Results: No serious safety issues were reported. At the start of the program, patients reported a mild sedative effect of clonidine. Additionally, most patients presented mild symptoms of opioid withdrawal, which were partially countered by the sedative effect of clonidine. Both patients and the medical staff found this protocol feasible in clinical practice. Concerning the effectiveness, a statistically significant decrease in median morphine milligram equivalents (MMEs) was found with an MME of 175 (Q1-Q3: 118.1-240) at baseline, and at the last available follow-up visit the MME was 0 (Q1-Q3: 0-16.88).
Conclusions: This standardized detoxification program has proven its effectiveness, safety, and feasibility in this single-center experience pilot study in patients eligible for neuromodulation techniques.
Keywords: Clonidine; detoxification; neuromodulation; opioids; pilot study.