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Incidence of neuropathic pain after radiofrequency denervation of the third occipital nerve

Authors Gazelka HM, Knievel S, Mauck W, Moeschler S, Pingree M, Rho R, Lamer T

Received 17 January 2014

Accepted for publication 3 March 2014

Published 10 April 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 195—198

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S60925

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 4


Halena M Gazelka, Sarah Knievel, William D Mauck, Susan M Moeschler, Matthew J Pingree, Richard H Rho, Tim J Lamer

Division of Pain Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to identify the incidence of neuropathic pain occurring after radiofrequency neurotomy of the third occipital nerve (TON). This study was conducted at a teaching hospital from January 1, 2008, to March 31, 2010. With institutional review board approval, Current Procedural Terminology codes were used to identify patients who received radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of the nerves supplying the C2-3 facet joint and the TON. The C3 dorsal ramus provides innervation to the C2-3 facet joint and the suboccipital cutaneous region, and procedures that included ablation to this region were reviewed for complications. Postprocedural data were collected by reviewing follow-up appointment notes and telephone calls. Included were patients who had new neuropathic pain in the distribution of the TON after RFA. They described what they were feeling as burning, tingling, or numbness. All patients who presented with complaints had normal neurologic findings and no secondary cause for their symptoms. The included patient medical records were then reviewed for severity and duration of symptoms and the need for treatment with pain medication. Sixty-four patients underwent C2-3 RFA or TON RFA, and 12 patients were identified as experiencing ablation-induced third occipital neuralgia, an incidence rate of 19%. This finding suggests that patients undergoing RFA of the nerves supplying the C2-3 joint or TON are at risk for postprocedural third occipital neuralgia. This possibility may affect providing informed consent as well as anticipating and managing postprocedural pain.

Keywords: cervical spine, neuralgia, neurotomy, ablation

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