Chronic low back pain is a disabling phenomenon that can cause a severe reduction in quality of life, especially in elderly patients. Surgical treatment is sometimes a big challenge for these elderly patients. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation is an increasingly popular method for treating low back pain caused by facet syndrome. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether RF neurotomy is effective in terms of pain reduction and functional outcome in elderly patients.
Patients and methods
Fifty-eight patients aged 80 years and older who had chronic mechanical low back pain were examined after they underwent RF heat lesion of the medial branch. Follow-up occurred 1, 3, 6, and 12 months after treatment. Pain was measured on the visual analog scale and functional outcome was measured using the Oswestry Disability Index.
After 1 month, 43 patients (74%) were satisfied with the results. After 3 months, 38 patients (66%) had clinically significant pain relief. After 6 months, 33 patients (57%) had pain relief, and at the 1-year follow-up, 30 patients (52%) showed good results while 28 patients (48%) showed no effect. The Oswestry Disability Index score was substantially improved even after 1 year. Minor complications occurred in eleven patients (19%), who had transient discomfort and burning pain.
RF is a safe and partially effective procedure for treating elderly patients with mechanical back pain due to facet syndrome.