Long-Term Function, Pain and Medication Use Outcomes of Radiofrequency Ablation for Lumbar Facet Syndrome

Int J Anesth Anesth. 2015;2(2):028. doi: 10.23937/2377-4630/2/2/1028.


Objective: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the medial branch nerves for facet-mediated low back pain demonstrates clinical benefit for 6-12 months and possibly up to 2 years. This study investigated function, pain, and medication use outcomes of RFA for lumbar facet syndrome in a cohort with long-term follow-up.

Methods: Individuals evaluated in a tertiary academic pain practice between January, 2007-December, 2013, 18-60 years of age, with a clinical and radiologic diagnosis of lumbar facet syndrome, who underwent ≥1set of diagnostic medial branch blocks with resultant >75% pain relief and subsequent RFA were included. Outcomes measured were the proportion of individuals who reported ≥50% improvement in function, ≥50% improvement in pain; change in median NRS pain score, daily morphine equivalent consumption (DME), Medication Quantification Scale III (MSQ III) score and procedure complications.

Results: Sixty-two consecutive individuals with a median age and 25%-75% interquartile range (IQR) of 34 years (35, 52) met inclusion criteria. Seven individuals were lost to follow-up. Duration of pain was <2 years in 42%, 2-5 years in 40%, >5 years in 18% of individuals. Median duration of follow-up was 39 months (16, 60). Function and pain improved by ≥50% in 58% (CI 45%, 71%) and 53% (CI 40%, 66%) of individuals, respectively. The median reduction in MQS III score was 3.4 points (0, 8.8). No complications occurred in this cohort.

Conclusions: This study demonstrates a durable treatment effect of RFA for lumbar facet syndrome at long-term follow-up, as measured by improvement in function, pain, and analgesic use.

Keywords: Denervation; Low back pain; Opioid analgesics; Zygapophyseal joint.