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Medial branch radiofrequency ablation outcomes in patients with centralized pain


Background and objectives We hypothesized that patients with characteristics of centralized pain (fibromyalgia (FM)-like phenotype) would be less likely to respond to radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which may explain some of the failures of this peripherally directed therapy.

Methods We conducted a prospective, observational study of patients undergoing RFA using a number of validated self-report measures of pain, mood and function. The 2011 Fibromyalgia Survey Criteria were used to assess for symptoms of centralized pain and was the primary predictor of interest. We constructed multivariable linear regression models to evaluate covariates independently associated with change in pain 3 months after RFA.

Results 141 patients scheduled for medial branch blocks were enrolled in the study; 55 underwent RFA (51 with complete 3 months’ follow-up). Patients with higher FM scores had less improvement in overall body pain; however, this was not statistically significant (adjusted mean change in pain FM+0.41, FM−1.11, p=0.396). In a secondary analysis, the FM score was not associated with change in back pain (p=0.720), with both groups improving equally. This cohort also reported significant improvement in anxiety, physical function, catastrophizing, and sleep disturbance at 3 months after RFA.

Conclusions Although patients with high baseline centralized pain exhibited less improvement in overall pain, this trend was not statistically significant, possibly due to insufficient power. The same trend was not seen with change in spine pain with both groups improving equally. Centralized pain patients may have less improvement in overall pain but may have equal improvement in their site-specific pain levels after localized interventions.

  • radiofrequency ablation
  • pain medicine
  • chronic pain: central pain syndromes
  • fibromyalgia

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