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Pain Pract. 2005 Jun;5(2):111-5.

Pulsed radiofrequency for radicular pain due to a herniated intervertebral disc--an initial report.

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Clinica de Dor, Oporto, Portugal.


Pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) has been used for the treatment of radicular pain, due to a herniated intervertebral disc, but so far the data are anecdotal. This is a retrospective study on 13 consecutive patients with this type of pain, at levels L3 to S1. All patients had a diagnosis confirmed by imaging, all had neurological abnormalities, and all were scheduled for surgical intervention. All 12 patients who had a profession had stopped working. Treatment consisted of application of PRF to the dorsal root ganglion of the affected segmental nerve, or in the case of S1 to the segmental nerve at the level of the S1 foramen. One patient underwent disc surgery, and one other patient underwent a spinal fusion 1 year following PRF treatment. He had no leg pain at the time of operation. The remaining patients did not require surgical intervention. The numeric rating scale (NRS) score fell from 7.83 to 2.25 over the first 2 weeks, followed by a gradual further fall to 0.27 at the final follow-up, 15.8 (11 to 23) months after the procedure. Compared with the initial NRS score the data were significant (P < 0.01) from 4 weeks after the procedure. Neurological abnormalities resolved except in one patient, who had decreased sensibility in a small area in the L3 dermatome at the last follow-up. All professionally active patients went back to work after 0.49 months (0.1 to 1). It is concluded that PRF may potentially be a viable alternative for epidural steroid injections in the treatment of acute radicular pain, due to a herniated intervertebral disc, and that further studies, including a control group, should be carried out to establish the value of this method.

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