Objectives: We aimed to prospectively evaluate the response and safety of pulsed and continuous radiofrequecy lesioning of the dorsal root ganglion/segmental nerves in patients with chronic lumbosacral radicular pain.
Methods: Seventy-six patients with chronic lumbosacral radicular pain refractory to conventional therapy met the inclusion criteria and were randomly assigned to one of 2 types of treatment, pulsed radiofrequency lesioning of the dorsal root ganglion/segmental nerve or pulsed radiofrequency followed immediately by continuous radiofrequency. Patients were carefully evaluated for neurologic deficits and side effects. The response was evaluated at 2 months and was then tracked monthly. A Kaplan-Meier analysis was used to illustrate the probability of success over time and a Box-Whisker analysis was applied to determine the mean duration of a successful analgesic effect.
Results: Two months after undergoing radiofrequency treatment, 70% of the patients treated with pulsed radiofrequency and 82% treated with pulsed and continuous radiofrequency had a successful reduction in pain intensity. The average duration of successful analgesic response was 3.18 months (+/- 2.81) in the group treated with pulsed radiofrequency and 4.39 months (+/-3.50) in those patients treated with pulsed and continuous radiofrequency lesioning. A Kaplan-Meier analysis illustrated that in both treatment groups the chance of success approached 50% in each group at 3 months. The vast majority of patients had lost any beneficial effects by 8 months. There was no statistical difference between the 2 treatment groups. No side effects or neurological deficits were found in either group.
Conclusion: Pulsed mode radiofrequency of the dorsal root ganglion of segmental nerves appears to be a safe treatment for chronic lumbosacral radicular pain. A significant number of patients can derive at least a short-term benefit. The addition of heat via continuous radiofrequency does not offer a significant advantage. A randomized controlled trial is now required to determine the effectiveness of pulsed radiofrequency.