For the family of Mrs. D V, Diwali of 2011 seemed to be far from health and prosperity. The beloved Mrs. V, at the age of 83 was almost bedridden with severe low backache.
Her daughter, who was working with a leading hospital in the United States, could not help her own mother in this terrible state. Her search led her to the Pain Clinic at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital. Much to her pleasant surprise she was offered the same treatment suggested by her doctors in the United States – ‘Radio Frequency Ablation for the Facet Joints’.
Today, almost one and a half years after the procedure, Mrs. D V is entirely pain free, totally off painkillers, active, sprightly for her age and has even travelled by air for two hours for a wedding!
Treatment and Patient Response
Facet joints are tiny joints between the vertebrae in our spine (see arrows in Figure 1).
These tiny structures bear an important portion of our body weight in the upright position and during weight transfer.
In elderly, obese, or patients with mechanical backache – facet joints are an important cause of low back pain, but they are sadly neglected.
Radiofrequency Ablation is a modern procedure that utilises Radio Frequency (RF) technology. RF waves are used to generate thermal energy in a controlled and precise manner that is targeted at the nerves supplying the facet joints. These tiny nerves are then ‘ablated’ or blocked with the heat energy, preventing them from transmitting pain signals.
The procedure takes 20-40 minutes gives instant relief and is very safe. It is done in the Operation Theatre (OT) with image guidance for accuracy and safety (Figure 2).
Five out of six patients followed up to about one year continue to experience 90 to 100% relief from pain. They are off painkillers and have returned to their routine life. This technology has also been used for neck pain and headaches due to disorders in the cervical facet joints with 90 to 100% success.