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      Cryoneurolysis for the treatment of cervical facet joint syndrome: a technical note

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          Neck pain has an annual prevalence of 30%. A frequent cause of neck pain is cervical facet joint pain. In cases of refractory cervical facet joint pain, radiofrequency can be employed, but the grade of evidence attested in systematic reviews is fair. Cryoneurolysis has been reported to induce favorable outcomes in lumbar facet joint pain. We sought to examine the feasibility of cervical facet joint cryoneurolysis.


          Tertiary academic pain center.

          Patients and methods

          We report here the operative technique of cervical facet joint cryoneurolysis for patients with cervical facet joint pain. The procedure is performed under CT-guidance. The lesion points are defined with the help of sensory stimulation.


          Six cervical facet joint denervations were carried out in five patients. All patients had an uneventful course with adequate pain relief. Apart from soreness of the paravertebral muscles no severe side effects were encountered.


          This is the first report of cryoneurolysis for the treatment of cervical facet joint pain. The technique is feasible and warrants further studies.

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          Most cited references 35

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          Percutaneous radio-frequency neurotomy for chronic cervical zygapophyseal-joint pain.

          Chronic pain in the cervical zygapohyseal joints is a common problem after whiplash injury, but treatment is difficult. Percutaneous radiofrequency neurotomy can relieve the pain by denaturing the nerves innervating the painful joint, but the efficacy of this treatment has not been established. In a randomized, double-blind trial, we compared percutaneous radio-frequency neurotomy in which multiple lesions were made and the temperature of the electrode making the lesions was raised to 80 degrees C with a control treatment using an identical procedure except that the radio-frequency current was not turned on. We studied 24 patients (9 men and 15 women; mean age, 43 years) who had pain in one or more cervical zygapophyseal joints after an automobile accident (median duration of pain, 34 months). The source of their pain had been identified with the use of double-blind, placebo-controlled local anesthesia. Twelve patients received each treatment. The patients were followed by telephone interviews and clinic visits until they reported that their pain had returned to 50 percent of the preoperative level. The median time that elapsed before the pain returned to at least 50 percent of the preoperative level was 263 days in the active-treatment group and 8 days in the control group (P=0.04). At 27 weeks, seven patients in the active-treatment group and one patient in the control group were free of pain. Five patients in the active-treatment group had numbness in the territory of the treated nerves, but none considered it troubling. In patients with chronic cervical zygapophyseal-joint pain confirmed with double-blind, placebo-controlled local anesthesia, percutaneous radio-frequency neurotomy with multiple lesions of target nerves can provide lasting relief.
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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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              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
                19 June 2018
                : 11
                : 1165-1169
                [1 ]Interdisciplinary Pain Center
                [2 ]Department of Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery, Medical Center–University of Freiburg, Faculty of Medicine, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
                [3 ]Department of Spine Surgery, Helios Klinik Breisach, Breisach, Germany
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Tilman Wolter, Interdisziplinäres Schmerzzentrum, Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Breisacherstr. 64, 79106 Freiburg, Germany, Tel +49 761 2705 4801, Fax +49 761 2705 0130, Email tilman.wolter@ 123456uniklinik-freiburg.de
                © 2018 Wolter et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. 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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                Anesthesiology & Pain management

                cryoneurolysis, cervical spine, facet joint pain, neck pain


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