A new minimally invasive radiofrequency treatment provides relief from back pain

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radiofrequency, back pain, back pain treatment, back pain surgery, back arthritisA new image-guided pulsed radiofrequency treatment for lower back pain and sciatica shows great promise, experts highlighted at a meeting in the US.

Lower back pain is common, affecting at least 80% of the population at some point in their lifetime. One major cause of lower back pain that radiates to the legs is a compressed and herniated disk, in which the rubbery cushion between vertebrae impinges on and irritates nearby nerves.

“The nerve root is a sensitive structure that when pinched becomes inflamed and causes pain,” explains Dr Alessandro Napoli, lead investigator. “The body reacts with muscle constriction, which decreases the distance between vertebrae, and a vicious cycle is created.”

Pioneering treatment

A total of 80 people who had lower back pain due to a herniated disk that had not responded to conservative treatments were given a minimally invasive interventional radiology procedure. With the help of CT imaging, a needle is guided to the location of the bulging disc and nerve root. A probe is then inserted through the needle tip and delivers pulsed radiofrequency energy to the area for 10 minutes.

Of the 80 people treated, 81% were pain free one year after a single 10-minute treatment session. Six patients required a second session. In all, 90% of the patients were able to avoid surgical treatment. No patients experienced side effects after receiving the minimally invasive outpatient treatment.

“The probe delivers a gentle electrical energy, so there’s no thermal damage,” Dr Napoli says. “The results have been extraordinary. Patients have been relieved of pain and resumed their normal activities within a day. Following this treatment, inflammation and pain go away. With relaxation of the muscles, the distance between the vertebrae returns.”

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