The dorsal root ganglion (DRG) is a bundle of nerves in the spine. The main function of the dorsal root ganglion is to transmit nerve impulses with information of your senses. In other words, the dorsal root ganglion carries sensory neural signals from the peripheral nervous system to the central nervous system, which includes your spinal cord and brain.
The dorsal Root Ganglion has been of interest to pain physicians for years. This nerve cluster acts like a traffic light, regulating signals and sensations as they travel to the brain. Stimulation of the DRG can actually modify the pain signals getting through—resulting in the reduction of pain.
Damage to or irritation of the dorsal roots can lead to neuropathic pain that does not respond to conventional treatments. This can lead to additional complications in the form of impaired functioning and pain. In these cases, your physician may discuss with you more interventional treatment options, which are aimed at your dorsal root ganglions. These options include dorsal root ganglion block and more advanced method – dorsal root ganglion stimulation (DRG stimulation).
What is a Dorsal Root Ganglion Block?
Dorsal Root Ganglion Block (also known as “paravertebral block” or “nerve root block”) is an injection of local anesthetic and steroid hormones (cortisol) directly into your root ganglion. The procedure is performed under fluoroscope.
What is DRG stimulation?
DRG stimulation therapy is the next generation in pain relief. For patients with pain that is limited to a specific area of the body, DRG therapy often works where other treatments may not—or provide only partial relief. That’s because the DRG corresponds to specific anatomical locations in the body and relays information, such as pain signals, to the brain. Because of its unique ability to target the areas of the body where pain occurs, DRG therapy can be especially helpful for patients like you.
The technique of DRG stimulation is nearly identical to spinal cord stimulation. However, the dorsal root ganglion is targeted, rather than the spinal cord. It may also result in effective chronic pain treatment. Moreover, DRG stimulation is especially helpful for patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
The DRG neurostimulator system consists of 3 components:
- THE GENERATOR – a small device that sends out mild electrical pulses, which contains a battery. This is implanted in your body.
- THE LEADS – thin insulated wires that carry the electrical pulses from the generator to your dorsal root ganglia. These are placed in your body in the area of the DRG.
- THE PATIENT CONTROLLER – a handheld “remote control” that allows you to adjust the strength and location of stimulation or even turn stimulation off.
DRG stimulation involves implanting stimulation device electrodes, which are designed for use on this type of nerve bundle. The device sends electrical impulses to the specified area of the dorsal root ganglion. These impulses interrupt the transmission of pain signals from the peripheral nervous system, through the dorsal root ganglion, to the spinal cord and brain. In other words, dorsal root ganglion stimulation prevents you from feeling a pain.
While you wear the temporary system you will be asked to limit physical activities that involve lifting, bending, twisting or raising your arms above your head. Otherwise, you will be able to resume daily living. Look forward to the ability to do and enjoy things, like sleeping, walking and shopping, that were once difficult. Life more like you remember it – before the pain.