What Are the Latest Research Findings About Efficacy of Radiofrequency Ablation for Spinal Arthritis?

30 Dec What Are the Latest Research Findings About Efficacy of Radiofrequency Ablation for Spinal Arthritis?

Radiofrequency ablation has evolved as a front-line treatment to manage pain associated with spinal arthritis. An alternative to invasive surgery, the procedure reduces the severity of pain, inhibit recurring pain, and prolongs relief. Research studies indicate radiofrequency ablation has a success rate varying between 65 and 90 percent in managing spinal arthritis symptoms.

What is spinal arthritis?

Spinal arthritis is degenerative disorder marked by chronic inflammation in the spinal facet joints and discs dotting the spinal cord. Torn cartilage in facet joints allow bones to rub with each other and inhibiting the ability to facilitate the bending of the vertebra. Often spurs appear on the facet joints impinging nerves exiting the spinal joints. All these cause pain and disability.

How does radiofrequency ablation relieve spinal arthritis pain?

Radiofrequency ablation uses electromagnetic heat to inhibit pain-signal transmission. Controlled administration of 500,000 short radio pulses every second stuns or shuts off nerves responsible to carry pain sensation to the brain. This interruption assures relief from spinal arthritis pain. When repeated over an extended period, the result becomes semi-permanent.

What do research studies say about the efficacy of spinal arthritis?

Clinical studies indicate 50 to 90 percent relief from pain and disability when spinal arthritis patients are treated with radiofrequency ablation. There is relief up to two years with a single procedure and it can be extended for life with repeats after a prescribed period. According to Transparent Market Research, the global demand for radiofrequency ablation devices will witness a four-fold growth in the next eight years. This attests the present success and future increase in the use of the procedure.

The Relievant Medsystems, a leader in radiofrequency ablation technique, reported results of its clinical trial in December 2016. Findings based on the treatment provided to 225 US and German patients with low back pain demonstrated encouraging results. All 150 patients treated with radiofrequency ablation procedure experienced significant improvement within two weeks.


A 2014 meta-analysis published in the Pain Research and Management journal reviewed 11 studies, each with 20 to 80 subjects. When the clinical efficacy of radiofrequency ablation was studies, it was discovered the heat generated by it disrupted pain sensation transmitted by spinal nerves to a significant extent. The analysis reported statistically significant benefits for those suffering from chronic low back pain rooted in lumbar facet joints and sacroiliac area.


The Journal of Spinal Disorders & Techniques published a 2014 Japanese study findings that highlighted “safe, long-lasting, and effective treatment for chronic facet joint pain” following radiofrequency ablation treatment. Of 55 patients studied, the success rate was 75 percent after the first week, 71 percent after 12 weeks, 60 percent after 24 weeks, and 51 percent after a year.


According to findings based on interviews of patients treated with the procedure and reported in the Pain Practice journal, 21 percent experienced complete end of back pain while 65 percent had reasonable relief.

The Clinical Journal of Pain has cited research findings claiming significant improvement in back pain and functional impairment for the next 12 to 18 months in patients having the treatment. Similar literary reviews in the Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology attest clinical claims that view radiofrequency ablation an important medical method to manage nerve root and spinal pain.

An Australian study made public in the Journal of Pain Research supported the benefits of radiofrequency ablation for spinal pain. Of more than 370 lumbar facet arthropathy subjects, none had any procedural complication and all experienced improvement in pain scores.



Leggett LE, Soril LJ, Lorenzetti DL, et al. Radiofrequency ablation for chronic low back pain: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Pain Research & Management : The Journal of the Canadian Pain Society. 2014;19(5):e146-e153.


Kanchiku T, Imajo Y, Suzuki H, et al. Percutaneous radiofrequency facet joint denervation with monitoring of compound muscle action potential of the multifidus muscle group for treating chronic low back pain: a preliminary report. J Spinal Disord Tech. 2014 Oct;27(7):E262-7.


Loh JT, Nicol AL, Elashoff D, Ferrante FM. Efficacy of needle-placement technique in radiofrequency ablation for treatment of lumbar facet arthropathy. Journal of Pain Research. 2015;8:687-694.

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