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Percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation of dorsal ramus branches as a treatment of “lumbar facet syndrome” - How I do it

Abstract

Background

Low back pain is an extremely common and often chronic condition. In some cases, this is due to an irritative arthropathy of zygapophyseal joint involving the medial branch of the dorsal ramus of the spinal nerve. Percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation appears to be the most effective treatment to date, among a range of different treatments. In this paper, the technique is described as performed at out institution.

Methods

In supine position and under fluoroscopic control, a radiofrequency electrode is inserted into different articular zygapophyseal complexes to thermocoagulate ramifications of the medial branch of the dorsal primary ramus of the spinal nerve.

Conclusions

Fluoroscopic-guided percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation of dorsal rami branches is a safe and reliable technique for the treatment of lumbar facet syndrome. Careful selection of patients based on clinical presentation and positive anesthetic block test are key points for an optimum outcome.

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Author information

Correspondence to Mattia Pacetti.

Ethics declarations

Funding

No funding was received for this research.

Conflict of interest

All authors certify that they have no affiliations with or involvement in any organization or entity with any financial interest (such as honoraria; educational grants; participation in speakers' bureaus; membership, employment, consultancies, stock ownership, or other equity interest; and expert testimony or patent-licensing arrangements), or non-financial interest (such as personal or professional relationships, affiliations, knowledge or beliefs) in the subject matter or materials discussed in this manuscript.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Additional information

Key Points

1. Chronic lumbar pain is a common condition, sometimes due to an irritative arthropathy of zygapophyseal joint involving dorsal primary ramus of the spinal nerve.

2. Fluoroscopic-guided percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation of posterior ramus nerve branches is a safe and reliable technique for the treatment of lumbar facet syndrome.

3. The procedure is simple, quick, and can be done as an outpatient.

4. The procedure does not alter the anatomical integrity of the spinal nerve.

5. Careful selection on clinical basis (localization of pain, absence of neurological deficit, positive anesthetic block test).

6. Careful selection on radiological basis (no signs of radiological instability).

7. Reduction of pain after anesthetic block test is the strongest predictor of good outcome after RF denervation.

8. The procedure is safe and repeatable.

9. Transitory dermographism phenomenon could be related to a satisfactory outcome.

10. Optimum outcome is absence of low back pain for 6 months to 1 year; in most of our cases longer.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

The attached video shows one step of the procedure. The cannula is positioned as described in the text, local anesthesia is injected, the probe is inserted, and the position is corrected under fluoroscopic control. Then thermocoagulation is performed. The probe is moved as described in the text and thermocoagulation is repeated. (MP4 167455 kb)

ESM 1

The attached video shows one step of the procedure. The cannula is positioned as described in the text, local anesthesia is injected, the probe is inserted, and the position is corrected under fluoroscopic control. Then thermocoagulation is performed. The probe is moved as described in the text and thermocoagulation is repeated. (MP4 167455 kb)

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Cite this article

Pacetti, M., Fiaschi, P. & Gennaro, S. Percutaneous radiofrequency thermocoagulation of dorsal ramus branches as a treatment of “lumbar facet syndrome” - How I do it. Acta Neurochir 158, 995–998 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00701-016-2759-7

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Keywords

  • Chronic low back pain
  • Thermocoagulation
  • Pain management
  • Spine