Long-term effect of pulsed radiofrequency on chronic cervical radicular pain refractory to repeated transforaminal epidural steroid injections

Gyu-Sik Choi, Sang-Ho Ahn, Yun-Woo Cho, Dong-Gyu Lee
Pain Medicine 2012, 13 (3): 368-75

OBJECTIVE: The article aims to evaluate the long-term effectiveness and safety of pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) on the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) in patients with chronic cervical radicular pain refractory to repeated transforaminal epidural steroid injections (TFESIs).

DESIGN: This is a prospective observational study.

METHODS: We retrospectively reviewed data on 112 subjects who had received repeated TFESIs for cervical radicular pain. Twenty-nine of those 112 patients continued to complain of persistent cervical radicular pain, despite an average of three repeated TFESIs. Among 29 patients with sustained arm pain of over 4 on the numerical rating scale (NRS), a total of 21 patients were included prospectively. Those 21 patients underwent PRF on the symptomatic cervical DRG and were evaluated carefully for neurologic deficits and side effects. The clinical outcomes were measured via NRS for arm pain before treatment, and 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment. Successful pain relief was defined as a 50% or more reduction in the NRS score as compared with the pretreatment score. After 12 months, patients' satisfaction levels with treatment were determined.

RESULTS: Fourteen of the 21 patients (66.7%) after cervical PRF stimulation reported pain relief of 50% or more at the 3-month and 12-month follow-up periods, respectively. Fifteen of the 21 patients (71.4%) were satisfied with their outcome at 12 months' posttreatment. No serious adverse effects were observed.

CONCLUSION: Application of PRF to the DRG appears to be an effective and relatively safe intervention technique for chronic cervical radicular pain refractory to repeated TFESIs.

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