US Pharm. 2018;43(1):17.

Most patients were free of pain after receiving a new image-guided pulsed radiofrequency treatment for low back pain and sciatica, according to a study presented in November at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Impacting at least of 80% of people at some point, low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and affects men and women equally. Most back pain does not persist, but about 20% of people affected by acute low back pain progress to develop chronic low back pain lasting a year or longer.

The single-center prospective study looked at 80 patients suffering from at least 3 months of low back pain due to a herniated disk unresponsive to conservative treatments (exercise and medication). For the procedure, patients underwent a minimally invasive interventional radiology treatment in which a needle was guided by CT imaging to the bulging disc and nerve root. A probe was then inserted through the needle tip to deliver pulsed radiofrequency energy to the area over a 10-minute period. Even without touching the disc, the pulsation resolved the herniation.

“There’s a big gap between conservative treatments for disc compression and herniation and surgical repair, which can lead to infection, bleeding and a long recovery period,” said lead investigator Alessandro Napoli, MD, PhD, an interventional radiologist at Sapienza University of Rome. “Evolving technologies like this image-guided treatment may help a substantial number of patients avoid surgery.”

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