Effect of the Temperature Used in Thermal Radiofrequency Ablation

  • End date
    Dec 13, 2024
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    The Cleveland Clinic
Updated on 13 May 2022
pain relief
conservative management
chronic pain
back pain
low back pain
back surgery
radicular pain


Chronic lower back pain (CLBP) is a significant health care issue in the United States and the world. CLBP contributes to decreased quality of life, decreased function and increased utilization of health care resources. The causes of CLBP tend to be multi-factorial. Arthropathy of the lumbar facet joints is thought to be a common etiology (15-45%). Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) of the medial branch nerve of the facet joint is a well-established treatment modality used to decrease facet joint pains. However, a wide range of temperature is being used (70-90 degrees Celsius). In addition, the optimal temperature that provides the best patient outcomes with the least side effects is not well established in the pain management literature.

This study will determine if lumbar facets medial branches RFA at 90 degrees Celsius provides more overall pain relief (i.e., percent of improvement), when compared to ablation at 80 degrees Celsius with no additional adverse events. Furthermore, ablation of the lumbar facets nerve supply at 90 degrees Celsius will provide better improvement in the functionality level, general mood and quality of life as measured by VAS ( Visual Analog Scale) pain score, Pain Disability Index (PDI), McGill Pain questioner scores and Beck Inventory (BI) scores as those receiving the ablation at 80 degrees Celsius. Also, it is associated with less opioid consumption, no additional unwanted adverse events and/or complications along with less need to repeat RFA procedure over one year period.

Condition Low Back Pain
Treatment RFA at 90 degrees Celsius, RFA at 80 degrees Celsius, C-arm guided 20-gauge radiofrequency needle
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT02148003
SponsorThe Cleveland Clinic
Last Modified on13 May 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Age >18 years-old
Subjects who are able to give informed consent and to understand and comply with study requirements
Predominantly axial low back pain ≥ 3 months in duration with no radicular pain below the knee that failed to conservative therapy
Subjects who have chronic back pain attributed to lumbar facet joints arthropathy based on clinical evaluation (paraspinal tenderness and/or facet loading test in the absence of signs and symptoms suggestive of focal neurological deficits)
No history of previous back surgery at the intended treatment levels
Adequate response to the diagnostic blocks without the use of steroids at the same levels of the intended block (Defined as ≥ 70% pain relief)
Patients who will undergo RFA of 3-4 lumbar facet medial branches on one side only

Exclusion Criteria

Subjects who decline to provide written consent or follow-up
Subjects who have a history of adverse reactions to local anesthetic
Subjects who are pregnant
Subjects with bleeding disorders or active anticoagulation that cannot be stopped for few days close to the time of the procedure
Subjects who have an active systemic or local infection
Presence of radicular pain below the knee
Patients who have other specific etiology of low back pain (e.g. significant spinal canal stenosis or grade 2 or 3 spondylolisthesis)
Secondary gain (i.e., ongoing litigation, worker's compensation or other financial incentives)
Psychopathology including depression, somatization or poor coping skills
Physical factors including non-sedentary lifestyle, e.g.; morbid obesity (BMI > 35kg/m2)
History of previous RFA at the same level(s) in the previous 12 months
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