Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation for Neuropathic Pain on the Non-Motor Cortex: An Evidence Mapping of Systematic Reviews


Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2021 (no pagination), 2021. Article Number: 3671800. Date of Publication: 2021.

Zang Y.; Zhang Y.; Lai X.; Yang Y.; Guo J.; Gu S.; Zhu Y.

This study was aimed to summarize and analyze the quality of the available evidence in systematic reviews (SRs) of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) on the non-motor cortex (non-M1) for neuropathic pain (NP) through an evidence mapping approach.

We follow the Global Evidence Mapping (GEM) methodology. Searches were conducted in PubMed, EMBASE, Epistemonikos, and the Cochrane Library. The study type was restricted to SRs with or without meta-analysis. All literature published before January 23, 2021, were included. The methodological quality of the included SRs was assessed using A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews (AMSTAR-2). Data were extracted according to a defined population-intervention-comparison-outcome (PICO) framework from primary studies that included SRs. The same PICO was categorized into PICOs according to interventions (stimulation target, frequency, number of sessions (short: 1-5 sessions, medium: 5-10 sessions, and long: >10 sessions)) and comparison (sham rTMS or other targets). The evidence mapping was presented in tables and a bubble plot.

A total of 23 SRs were included. According to the AMSTAR-2, 20 SRs scored “”very low””in terms of methodological quality, 2 SRs scored “”low,””and 1 SR scored “”high.””A total of 17 PICOs were extracted. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is the most studied of the non-motor cortex targets. PICOs of DLPFC, premotor cortex (PMC), frontal cortex, and secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) were mainly categorized with a “”potentially better””conclusion. High-frequency (5-20 Hz) rTMS of non-M1 usually lead to “”potentially better””conclusions.

DLPFC, PMC, frontal cortex, and S2 seem to be promising new targets for rTMS treatment of certain NP. Evidence mapping is a useful and reliable methodology to identify and present the existing evidence gap that more research efforts are necessary in order to highlight the optimal stimulation protocols for non-M1 targets and standardize parameters to fill the evidence gaps of rTMS. Further investigation is advised to improve the methodological quality and the reporting process of SRs.