Abstract BACKGROUND: Vegetative state (VS) is a complex condition that represents a challenging frontier for medicine and neuroscience research. Nowadays there is no scientifically validated treatment for VS patients, and their chronic long-term assistance is very demanding for healthcare systems worldwide. OBJECTIVES: The present paper is a systematic review of the role of spinal cord stimulation (SCS) as a treatment of patients with VS. METHODS: Published literature on this topic was analyzed systematically. Clinical and epidemiological characteristics of VS, present therapeutic options and social costs of VS were also evaluated. RESULTS: Only 10 papers have been published since 1988, and overall 308 VS patients have been treated with SCS worldwide; 51.6% displayed a clinical improvement and an amelioration of the environmental interaction. These effects are probably mediated by the stimulation of the reticular formation-thalamus-cortex pathway and by cerebral blood flow augmentation induced by SCS. CONCLUSIONS: The experience on this topic is still very limited, and on this basis it is still hard to make any rigorous assessment. However, the most recent experiments represent significant progress in the research on this topic and display SCS as a possible therapeutic tool in the treatment of VS.
- SCS, CBF