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Papers of the Week

2020 Apr

Medicine (Baltimore)



The efficacy and safety of cooled-radiofrequency neurotomy in the treatment of chronic thoracic facet (zygapophyseal) joint pain: A retrospective study.


Anatomic course of medial branches in the thoracic spine is significantly different. Cooled RFA (CRFA) is a newer technique that can create a larger spherical lesion with a potential to compensate for the anatomic variability of the medial branches in the thoracic spine. Our retrospective study aimed to investigate the efficacy and the adverse effects of the CRFA in the treatment of thoracic facet-related pain.For this retrospective study, we evaluated 40 CRFA performed on 23 patients. The patients with diagnosis of thoracic facet joint-related pain underwent CRFA. Pain scores in numeric rating scale (NRS) were recorded at pretreatment and posttreatment at different time-points. The primary outcome measure was to report descriptive NRS score and average % improvement from baseline at each time point. A significant pain relief was determined by a decrease of ≥ 50% of mean NRS. Secondary outcome measure was the time to repeat treatment with subsequent CRFA. Adverse events were also recorded.Improvement of average pain level was 20.72% in the 1st follow-up (FU) (4-8 weeks), 53% in the 2nd FU (2-6 months), and 37.58% in the 3rd FU (6-12 months). Subgroup analysis was done based on age cutoff (age in years ≤ 50 versus >50), and pretreatment NRS (≤7 versus >7). Patients with age ≤50 and NRS score >7 experienced the best pain relief in the 2nd FU period (2-6 months). The patients with age > 50 and NRS pain level ≤7 showed steadily increased benefit both in the 2nd FU (2-6 months) and 3rd FU (6-12 months).This is the first clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and adverse effects of CRFA in the thoracic spine for facet joint-related pain. Our results suggest that CRFA procedure is an effective treatment modality for thoracic facet-related pain. Our subgroup analysis demonstrated that the pain relief and duration varies with the age and the pretreatment pain levels.