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Lower Spine News

Repeated Radiofrequency Treatment for Low Back Pain May Be Worth It

Radiofrequency neurotomy (RFN) is a way to stop low back pain caused by facet joints in the spine. (Facet joints are the small link joints along the back of the spinal column.) Spinal nerves to the joint are heated enough to cause injury. RFN keeps the nerve from sending pain signals from the joint to the brain. This is called a medial nerve block.

RFN works well, but sometimes patients relapse and need a second treatment. In this study researchers looked at the success of a second RFN. They measured how long pain relief lasted after each RFN treatment. Twenty patients had repeated RFN. Some had as many as seven treatments. Some patients had just one nerve blocked. Others had nerves blocked at several levels on both sides of the back. Success was defined as at least 50 percent pain relief.

It's important to know if a treatment is working before repeating it. The authors of this study say that repeated RFNs are often effective and can give long-term relief of low back pain. Repeated RFNs work more than 85 percent of the time and last up to nearly 11 months. However, RFN doesn't usually cure the problem.


Jerome Schofferman, MD, and Garrett Kine, MD. Effectiveness of Repeated Radiofrequency Neurotomy for Lumbar Facet Pain. In Spine. November 1, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 21. Pp. 2471-2473.

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