According to research presented at the Radiological Society of North America Annual Meeting (RSNA), the new outpatient radiofrequency current procedure will ease pain for patients suffering from moderate to severe arthritis in the hip and shoulder joints. Scientists said the procedure would reduce dependence on pain relievers.
Without pain relief, patients are faced with the possibility of joint replacement surgery. Surgical intervention is contraindicated for many of them for health reasons. For these patients, the only option may be strong pain relievers that lead to addiction.
Felix M. Gonzalez, M.D., of the Department of Radiology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, and his colleagues studied the use of a new method of interventional radiology. It is also known as cold radiofrequency ablation (c-RFA) and has been used by scientists in a new study to relieve pain in advanced degenerative arthritis.
During the procedure, needles are placed at the locations of the main sensory nerves around the shoulder and hip joints. Then the nerves are processed with a weak current that “stuns” them, slowing down the transmission of pain to the brain.
For the new study, 23 people with osteoarthritis were treated, including 12 with shoulder pain and 11 with hip pain that stopped responding to anti-inflammatory pain relief and intra-articular injections of lidocaine and steroids. Treatment was carried out two to three weeks after the diagnostic anesthetic nerve block. The patients were then measured for body function and range of motion. The subjects also shared their feelings and assessed the degree of pain before and three months after the ablation procedure.
Both groups reported statistically significant reductions in pain and an increase in dynamic shoulder and hip function after treatment. There were no complications associated with the procedure.
“The results are promising,” said Dr. Gonzalez. – In patients with shoulder pain, pain decreased by 85% and function by about 74%. Patients with hip pain experienced a 70% reduction in pain and an improvement in function of about 66%.”
This procedure offers a new alternative for patients who require surgery. Plus, it can reduce the risk of dependence on pain relievers.
Dr. Gonzalez explained that the procedure could potentially help not only treat arthritis pain, but also associated, for example, with diseases such as cancer and pain associated with sickle cell disease.