CT-guided stellate ganglion blockade vs. radiofrequency neurolysis in the management of refractory type I complex regional pain syndrome of the upper limb

Adrian Kastler, Sébastien Aubry, Nicolas Sailley, Demosthene Michalakis, Gaye Siliman, Guillaume Gory, Jean-Louis Lajoie, Bruno Kastler
European Radiology 2013, 23 (5): 1316-22

OBJECTIVE: To describe and evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of CT-guided radiofrequency neurolysis (RFN) vs. local blockade of the stellate ganglion in the management of chronic refractory type I complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) of the upper limb.

METHODS: Sixty-seven patients were included in this retrospective study between 2000 and 2011. All suffered from chronic upper limb type I CRPS refractory to conventional pain therapies. Thirty-three patients underwent stellate ganglion blockade and 34 benefited from radiofrequency neurolysis of the stellate ganglion. CT guidance was used in both groups. The procedure was considered effective when pain relief was ≥50 %, lasting for at least 2 years.

RESULTS: Thirty-nine women (58.2 %) and 28 men (41.8 %) with a mean age of 49.5 years were included in the study. Univariate analysis performed on the blockade and RFN groups showed a significantly (P < 0.0001) higher success rate in the RFN group (67.6 %, 23/34) compared with the blockade group (21.2 %, 7/33) with an odds ratio of 7.76.

CONCLUSION: CT-guided radiofrequency neurolysis of the stellate ganglion is a safe and successful treatment of chronic refractory type I CRPS of the upper limb. It appears to be more effective than stellate ganglion blockade.

KEY POINTS: • Complex regional pain syndrome is painful, disabling and often refractory to treatment. • Sixty-seven percent of patients had lasting pain relief (2 years) after radiofrequency neurolysis. • Retrospective study showed a significantly higher success rate for radiofrequency neurolysis. • CT guidance is mandatory for a successful and safe procedure.

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