, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 390-395
Date: 29 Nov 2012

Comparison of alcohol ablation with repeated thermal radiofrequency ablation in medial branch neurotomy for the treatment of recurrent thoracolumbar facet joint pain

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Abstract

Purpose

Chemical denervation is not recommended as part of the routine care of chronic non-cancer pain. Physicians face a dilemma when it comes to repeated interventions in cases of recurrent thoracolumbar facet joint pain after successful thermal radiofrequency ablation (RFA) in medial branch neurotomy. This study was performed to compare the effects of alcohol ablation (AA) with thermal RFA in patients with recurrent thoracolumbar facet joint pain after thermal RFA treatment.

Methods

Forty patients with recurrent thoracolumbar facet joint pain after successful thermal RFA defined as a numeric rating scale (NRS) score of ≥7 or a revised Oswestry disability index (ODI) of ≥22 % were randomly allocated to two groups receiving either the same repeated RFA (n = 20) or AA (n = 20). The recurrence rate was assessed with NRS and ODI during the next 24 months, and adverse events in each group were recorded.

Results

During the 24-month follow-up after RFA and AA, one and 17 patients, respectively, were without recurring thoracolumbar facet joint pain. The median effective periods in the RFA and AA groups were 10.7 (range 5.4–24) and 24 (range 16.8–24) months, respectively (p < 0.000). No significant complications were observed with the exception of injection site pain, which occurred in both groups.

Conclusion

In our patient cohort, alcohol ablation in medial branch neurotomy provided a longer period of pain relief and better quality of life than repeated radiofrequency medial branch neurotomy in the treatment of recurrent thoracolumbar facet joint pain syndrome after successful thermal RFA without significant complications during the 24-month follow-up.