Past Issue - November/December 2010 - Vol 13 Issue 6  | Index | Previous | Next | 
2010;13;527-534. The Benefit of Therapeutic Medial Branch Blocks after Cervical Operations
Retrospective Study
Stephan Klessinger, MD
 
BACKGROUND: Persistent neck pain is a common problem after surgery of the cervical spine. No therapy recommendation exists for these patients. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine if a therapeutic medial branch block is a rational treatment for patients with postoperative neck pain after cervical spine operations. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective practice audit. SETTING: Review of charts of all patients who underwent cervical spine operations for degenerative reasons during a time period of 3 years. METHODS: Patients with persistent postsurgical pain were treated with therapeutic medial branch blocks (local anesthetic and steroid). A positive treatment response was defined if at least 80% reduction of pain could be achieved or if the patient was sufficiently satisfied with the relief. All patients with a minimum follow up time of 6 months were included. RESULTS: Of the 312 operations performed, 128 were artificial disc operations, 125 were stand alone cages, and 59 were fusions with cage and plate. Persistent neck pain occurred in 33.3% of the patients. There was no difference between the patients with neck pain and the whole group of patients. More than half of the patients with neck pain, 52.9%, were treated successfully with therapeutic medial branch blocks. Since no further treatment was necessary, the initial treatment was considered successful. Nearly a third, 32.2%, of the patients were initially treated successfully, but their pain recurred and further diagnostics and treatments were necessary. In this group of patients, significantly more with double level operations were found (P = 0.003). Patients not responding to the medial branch block were 14.9%. LIMITATIONS: This audit is retrospective and observational, and therefore does not represent a high level of evidence. However, to our knowledge, since this information has not been previously reported and no recommendation for the treatment of post-operative zygapophysial joint pain exists, it appears to be the best available research upon which to recommend treatment and to plan higher quality studies. CONCLUSION: For persistent postsurgical neck pain only limited therapy recommendations exist. This study suggests treating these patients in a first instance with therapeutic medial branch blocks. The success rate is 52.9 %.

 

   
 
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Authors
Stephan Klessinger


Keywords
Chronic neck pain
cervical zygapophysial pain
cervical facet joint pain
medial branch blocks
therapeutical cervical facet joint nerve blocks
postsurgery syndrome
pain therapy