Neural Ablation and Regeneration in Pain Practice

Korean J Pain. 2016 Jan;29(1):3-11. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2016.29.1.3. Epub 2016 Jan 4.


A nerve block is an effective tool for diagnostic and therapeutic methods. If a diagnostic nerve block is successful for pain relief and the subsequent therapeutic nerve block is effective for only a limited duration, the next step that should be considered is a nerve ablation or modulation. The nerve ablation causes iatrogenic neural degeneration aiming only for sensory or sympathetic denervation without motor deficits. Nerve ablation produces the interruption of axonal continuity, degeneration of nerve fibers distal to the lesion (Wallerian degeneration), and the eventual death of axotomized neurons. The nerve ablation methods currently available for resection/removal of innervation are performed by either chemical or thermal ablation. Meanwhile, the nerve modulation method for interruption of innervation is performed using an electromagnetic field of pulsed radiofrequency. According to Sunderland's classification, it is first and foremost suggested that current neural ablations produce third degree peripheral nerve injury (PNI) to the myelin, axon, and endoneurium without any disruption of the fascicular arrangement, perineurium, and epineurium. The merit of Sunderland's third degree PNI is to produce a reversible injury. However, its shortcoming is the recurrence of pain and the necessity of repeated ablative procedures. The molecular mechanisms related to axonal regeneration after injury include cross-talk between axons and glial cells, neurotrophic factors, extracellular matrix molecules, and their receptors. It is essential to establish a safe, long-standing denervation method without any complications in future practices based on the mechanisms of nerve degeneration as well as following regeneration.

Keywords: Axon; Chemical Neurolysis; Denervation; Electromagnetic field; Myelin; Nerve degeneration; Nerve regeneration; Peripheral nerve injury; Pulsed radiofrequency treatment; Wallerian degeneration.

Publication types

  • Review