Microcurrent Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation in Painful Diabetic Neuropathy: A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Study


Gudrun Gossrau, MD, University Pain Center Dresden, University of Dresden Medical School, Fetscherstr. 74, 01307 Dresden, Germany. Tel: +49-351-458-2063; Fax: +49-351-458-4389; E-mail: gudrun.gossrau2@uniklinikum-dresden.de.


Objectives.  Diabetes is a common health care problem in western countries. Painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN) might be one of the consequences of long ongoing diabetes; it is estimated that approximately 20% of European diabetic patients suffer from PDN. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is often used as additional pain treatment. However, recent studies show inconsistent results. We aimed to assess the effect of micro-TENS in reducing neuropathic pain in patients with PDN in a placebo-controlled, single-blinded, and randomized design.

Design/Setting/Patients/Outcome Measures.  22 diabetic patients have been treated with a micro-TENS therapy and 19 patients have been treated with a placebo therapy. Treatment duration was 4 weeks with three therapeutical settings per week. Standardized questionnaires (Pain Disability Index [PDI], neuropathic pain score [NPS], Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale [CES-D]) were used to assess pain intensity, pain disability, as well as quality of life at baseline at the end of the treatment period and 4 weeks after treatment termination.

Results.  Patients with a minimum of 30% reduction in NPS were defined as therapy responders. After 4 weeks of treatment, 6/21 patients in the verum group vs 10/19 patients in the placebo group responded to therapy. The median PDI score after 4 weeks of treatment showed a reduction of 23% in the verum vs 25% in the placebo group. The differences did not reach statistical significance.

Conclusions.  The pain reduction with the applied transcutaneous electrotherapy regimen is not superior to a placebo treatment.