[Pulsed radiofrequency treatment of severe radicular pain]

Evgeny Pevzner, Rami David, Yossef Leitner, Ilia Pekarsky, Yoram Folman, Reuven Gepstein
Harefuah 2005, 144 (3): 178-80, 231

UNLABELLED: Radiofrequency (RF) lesions have been used for over 25 years in the treatment of intractable pain of spinal origin. The conventional idea is that the heat generated in the tissue surrounding the electrode tip leads to destruction of nerve fibers. In case of mechanical back pain, an electrode positioned adjacent to the medial branch of the dorsal root may reduce the input of noxious nerve stimuli and alleviate pain. For treatment of patients with severe radicular pain the authors often apply pulsed radiofrequency current. This technique enables the application of a relatively high voltage near the dorsal root ganglion, avoiding the deleterious thermal effect of the current. It was found to exert a beneficial effect in cases of intractable radicular pain. This study reports the result of pulsed RF in 28 patients suffering from severe radicular pain treated by pulsed radiofrequency current with follow-up at periods of 3, 6 and 12 months after treatment. There were 20 cases of low back pain and 8 with neck pain, with an average age of 56.7 years. The first follow-up after 3 months revealed the following results: excellent results in 2 cases (7.1%), good results in 12 cases (42/9%), fair in 9 (32/1%) and 5 (17/9%) reported that their condition have not changed. Results after 6 and 12 months were excellent in 2 (both groups), good in 7 and 6 respectively, 11 fair (both groups) and unresponsiveness to treatment was noticed in 8 patients after 6 and 9 after 12 months. Significant reduction was found in the Visual Analog Scale for pain from an average of 8.8 to 4.2 after 3 months, 4.8 after 6 months and 4.9 after 1 year.

CONCLUSION: Pulsed RF treatment is a safe and simple procedure to control radicular pain in the cervical and lumbar regions. Following the current study the authors stress the need for further prospective, double-blind studies for better investigation of this technique.

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