Last updated on March 2019

Spinal Cord Stimulation for Restless Legs Syndrome


Brief description of study

The overall goal of this proposed study is to evaluate the underlying mechanisms of neural control of blood flow in the lower extremities in humans with restless leg syndrome (RLS). At least 15% of the general public suffers from RLS and many more may go undiagnosed. This unfortunate disorder leads primarily to a disturbing sensation within the patient's lower extremities that requires movement for relief (1, 2). The central hypothesis of our study is that physiological changes in lower limb blood flow as a result of thoracolumbar epidural Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) lead to the relief of RLS.

Detailed Study Description

Patients age 18-85 years with (n=25) and without RLS (n=25) that have recently having undergone Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) implantation (thoracolumbar) for chronic pain will be recruited from the Departments of Anesthesia and Neurosurgery, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The rationale for studying both RLS patients and non-RLS patients with chronic back pain is to initially test the effectiveness of Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) on lower limb blood flow in the absence of symptoms of RLS. In the non-RLS patients, we could determine if SCS does in fact alter limb blood flow. We hypothesize that RLS patients have altered muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) and blood flow correlating to severity of RLS symptoms, which will then be modulated by Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), allowing for resolution of symptoms in RLS with MSNA-mediated improvements in leg blood flow. We also hypothesize that SCS in RLS patients will reduce 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure in parallel with reductions in MSNA.

Those deemed eligible to participate will be invited for 2 visits to the Translational Vascular Physiology Laboratory in the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Each of the 2 study visits are identical except for experimental measurements that are made at each of the five measurement time points when the Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS) unit is either on or off as described below.

Visit 1: Experimental measurements include non-invasive "gold standard" measures of limb blood flow and arterial stiffness including femoral artery blood flow via Doppler ultrasound, calf blood flow from strain gauge venous occlusion plethysmography, and arterial stiffness via pulse wave velocity using applanation tonometry. Additionally, participants will be asked to assess the current level of leg discomfort every 10 minutes while measurements are taken by the SIT test, a validated technique for assessing restless legs symptoms where patients are asked to set and rest quietly during measurement talking, moving as little as possible (3).

Visit 2: Experimental measurements include direct measures of sympathetic nerve activity using microneurography before, during and again after administration of SCS to the patient. Additionally, participants will be asked to assess the current level of leg discomfort every 10 minutes while measurements are taken by the SIT test, a validated technique for assessing restless legs symptoms where patients are asked to set and rest quietly during measurement taking, moving as little as possible (3).

Some participates may visit the laboratory for placement of a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure cuff.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03539081

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Recruitment Status: Open


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