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      Efficacy of needle-placement technique in radiofrequency ablation for treatment of lumbar facet arthropathy

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          Many studies have assessed the efficacy of radiofrequency ablation to denervate the facet joint as an interventional means of treating axial low-back pain. In these studies, varying procedural techniques were utilized to ablate the nerves that innervate the facet joints. To date, no comparison studies have been performed to suggest superiority of one technique or even compare the prevalence of side effects and complications.

          Materials and methods

          A retrospective chart review was performed on patients who underwent a lumbar facet denervation procedure. Each patient’s chart was analyzed for treatment technique (early versus advanced Australian), preprocedural visual numeric scale (VNS) score, postprocedural VNS score, duration of pain relief, and complications.


          Pre- and postprocedural VNS scores and change in VNS score between the two groups showed no significant differences. Patient-reported benefit and duration of relief was greater in the advanced Australian technique group ( P=0.012 and 0.022, respectively). The advanced Australian technique group demonstrated a significantly greater median duration of relief (4 months versus 1.5 months, P=0.022). Male sex and no pain-medication use at baseline were associated with decreased postablation VNS scores, while increasing age and higher preablation VNS scores were associated with increased postablation VNS scores. Despite increasing age being associated with increased postablation VNS scores, age and the advanced Australian technique were found to confer greater patient self-reported treatment benefit.


          The advanced Australian technique provides a significant benefit over the early Australian technique for the treatment of lumbar facet pain, both in magnitude and duration of pain relief.

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          Most cited references 28

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          Randomized trial of radiofrequency lumbar facet denervation for chronic low back pain.

          A prospective double-blind randomized trial in 31 patients. To assess the clinical efficacy of percutaneous radiofrequency denervation of the lumbar zygapophysial joints in reducing pain, functional disability, and physical impairment in patients with back pain originating from the lumbar zygapophysial joints. Chronic low back pain is a major health problem in the industrialized world. A treatment option is percutaneous radiofrequency denervation of the lumbar zygapophysial joints. Its clinical efficacy has never been formally tested in a controlled trial. Thirty-one patients with a history of at least 1 year of chronic low back pain were selected on the basis of a positive response to a diagnostic nerve blockade and subsequently randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups. Each patient in the radiofrequency treatment group (15 patients) received an 80 C radiofrequency lesion of the dorsal ramus of the segmental nerve roots L3, L4, and L5. Patients in the control group (n = 16) underwent an the same procedure but without use of a radiofrequency current. Both the treating physician and the patients were blinded to the group assignment. Before treatment, physical impairment, rating of pain, the degree of disability, and quality of life were assessed by a blinded investigator. Eight weeks after treatment, there were 10 success patients in the radiofrequency group (n = 15) and 6 in the sham group (n = 16). The unadjusted odds ratio was 3.3 (P = 0.05, not significant), and the adjusted odds ratio was 4.8 (P < 0.05, significant). The differences in effect on the visual analog scale scores, global perceived effect, and the Oswestry disability scale were statistically significant. Three, 6, and 12 months after treatment, there were significantly more success patients in the radiofrequency group compared with the sham group. Radiofrequency lumbar zygapophysial joint denervation results in a significant alleviation of pain and functional disability in a select group of patients with chronic low back pain, both on a short-term and a long-term basis.
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            The relative contributions of the disc and zygapophyseal joint in chronic low back pain.

            A prospective cross-sectional analytic approach was taken. This study sought to determine the relative contribution of the disc and the zygapophyseal joint as a pain source in patients with chronic low back pain. Previous studies have employed either zygapophyseal joint blocks or discography, but in no studies have both procedures been performed. Ninety-two consecutive patients with chronic low back pain were studied using both discography and blocks of the zygapophyseal joints. Thirty-six patients (39%) had at least one positive discogram as defined by exact pain reproduction, an abnormal image, and a negative control. Eight patients responded to both a screening zygapophyseal joint block using lignocaine and a confirmatory block using bupivacaine. Only three patients had both a positive discogram and a symptomatic zygapophyseal joint. In patients with chronic low back pain, the combination of discogenic pain and zygapophyseal joint pain is uncommon.
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              Efficacy and validity of radiofrequency neurotomy for chronic lumbar zygapophysial joint pain.

              A prospective audit. To establish the efficacy of lumbar medial branch neurotomy under optimum conditions. Previous reports of the efficacy of lumbar medial branch neurotomy have been confounded by poor patient selection, inaccurate surgical technique, and inadequate assessment of outcome. Fifteen patients with chronic low back pain whose pain was relieved by controlled, diagnostic medial branch blocks of the lumbar zygapophysial joints, underwent lumbar medial branch neurotomy. Before surgery, all were evaluated by visual analog scale and a variety of validated measures of pain, disability, and treatment satisfaction. Electromyography of the multifidus muscle was performed before and after surgery to ensure accuracy of the neurotomy. All outcome measures were repeated at 6 weeks, and 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery. Some 60% of the patients obtained at least 90% relief of pain at 12 months, and 87% obtained at least 60% relief. Relief was associated with denervation of the multifidus in those segments in which the medial branches had been coagulated. Prelesion electrical stimulation of the medial branch nerve with measurement of impedance was not associated with outcome. Lumbar medial branch neurotomy is an effective means of reducing pain in patients carefully selected on the basis of controlled diagnostic blocks. Adequate coagulation of the target nerves can be achieved by carefully placing the electrode in correct position as judged radiologically. Electrical stimulation before lesioning is superfluous in assuring correct placement of the electrode.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                Journal of Pain Research
                Dove Medical Press
                07 October 2015
                : 8
                : 687-694
                [1 ]Department of Anesthesiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
                [2 ]Department of Biomathematics, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Andrea L Nicol, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, 3901 Rainbow Boulevard – mail stop 1034, Kansas City, KS 66160, USA, Tel +1 913 588 6670, Fax +1 913 588 3365, Email anicol@ 123456kumc.edu
                © 2015 Loh et al. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

                The full terms of the License are available at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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