Clinical Radiofrequency Ablation Outcomes of Combined Sensory Nerve Branch and Dorsal Entry Root Zone Complex Lesions for Sacroiliac Joint Complex Pain
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BACKGROUND: Chronic lower back pain (LBP) with or without leg pain (LP) is the most commonly reported anatomical site of pain among Canadian adults with chronic pain. A common cause for LBP and LP arises from dysfunction of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ) complex. When conventional medical management or rehabilitative efforts for SIJ-related LBP and LP fail to provide analgesia, pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) and/or radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the dorsal entry root zone complex lesions (DREZC) and/or their more peripheral branches can also be a suitable means for treatment. Both PRF and RFA are interventional techniques that utilize heat to attenuate or ablate transmission of painful signals, respectively. The purpose of this chart review is to explore the clinical outcomes of patients experiencing SIJ-related pain who have undergone procedures with combined sensory nerve branch RFA and DREZC PRF lesions targeting the SIJ complex. METHODS: Following institutional review board approval, a retrospective chart review was performed from June 2018 to February 2021 for patients with LBP and/or LP refractory to physical rehabilitative efforts and medical management that underwent combined PRF and RF treatments for a diagnosis of SIJ complex pain. RF and PRF procedures were anatomically guided with the addition of sensory stimulation to ensure appropriate needle placement. Charts were reviewed for percentage of analgesia at final follow-up, duration of effect, degree of analgesia, patients' functional improvements, and changes in medication use patterns. RESULTS: Data was reviewed from 180 patients with LBP or LP who underwent combined PRF and RF treatments for a diagnosis of SIJ complex pain. The group consisted of 69 men and 111 women with a mean age of 59 years. All patients had lesions to their dorsal roots and/or branches (lumbar medial and sacral lateral), as determined using their pain profile as well as sensory stimulation. In the sample of 180 patients a total of 276 SIJs were treated over the period of data collection. Overall, 85.0% (n = 234) of procedures were considered successful with more than 50% analgesic relief at final follow-up. Of 234 successful outcomes, 110 reported ongoing analgesia (mean = 80.3% pain relief, SD ± 18.0) on the last date of follow up (mean = 53.2 days, SD ± 41.8) prior to being lost to follow-up. For patients not lost to follow-up, the mean amount of analgesia was reported to be 83.9% with an average duration of 86.3 days. Among all treatments, 6.9% (n = 19) provided no analgesic effect. Among the successful procedure outcomes, 54.4% (n = 150) reported increased activity/mobility, 24.3% (n = 67) reported improved sleep, 49.3% (n = 136) reported improved mood, and 11.6% (n = 32) reported decreased medication usage. Nine patients reported complications following the procedure. Complications included transient soreness, bruising, tenderness, myofascial pain, and two mild vagal responses without lasting sequelae. CONCLUSION: This review suggests that combined sensory nerve branch RFA and DREZC PRF lesions targeting the SIJ complex is a suitable intervention to treat SIJ-related LBP and/or LP refractory to physical rehabilitative efforts and medical management. Approximately 85% of these cases were successfully treated with the majority of patients report lasting analgesic effects with minimal complications, supporting the use of sensory stimulation-guided combined RF and PRF lesions for treatment of refractory SIJ complex pain.
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