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A Novel Modality for Facet Joint Denervation: Cooled Radiofrequency Ablation for Lumbar Facet Syndrome. A Case Series.

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The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago/Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, USA.
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Department of Anesthesiology, USA.



While cooled radiofrequency ablation (C-RFA) appears to be a promising technology for joint denervation, outcomes of this technique for the treatment of lumbar facet syndrome have not been described. We report clinical outcomes in a case series of patients treated with C-RFA for lumbar facet syndrome.


Consecutive patients aged 18-60 years diagnosed with lumbar facet syndrome, confirmed by ≥75% symptom relief with at least one set of diagnostic medial branch nerve blocks, who underwent C-RFA between January 2007 and December 2013 in an urban academic pain center were included. The respective proportions of participants who reported ≥50% improvement in pain and in function were calculated. Change in median NRS score, daily morphine equivalent consumption (DME), and medication quantification scale III (MQS III) score were measured.


Twelve patients underwent C-RFA; three were lost to follow-up. The median and 25%-75% interquartile range (IQR) for age was 44 years (35, 54). The median duration of follow-up was 34 months, IQR (21, 55). The percentage and 95% confidence interval (CI) of patients who reported ≥50% improvement in pain was 33% CI (12%, 64%) and in function was 78%, CI (41%, 96%). There was no significant change in DME or MSQ III score. Approximately 50% of patients sought additional healthcare by long-term follow-up. No complications were reported.


This case series suggests that C-RFA may improve function and to a lesser degree pain at long-term follow-up. A randomized, controlled trial is warranted.


Denervation; Low back pain; Zygapophyseal joint


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