Application of spinal ablative techniques for the treatment of benign chronic painful conditions: History, methods, and outcomes

Louis Anthony Whitworth, Claudio Andrés Feler, F. Todd Wetzel, Joshua Prager, Joel Saal, Paul Slosar, Barry Straus, Dennis Turk, Gunnar B J Andersson, James Weinstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Study Design. The literature on current neuroablative techniques for treating benign chronic painful conditions is comprehensively reviewed. Objective. To provide the reader with an understanding of the indications, techniques, and outcomes for the various ablative procedures used to treat chronic pain syndromes. Summary of Background Data. Neuromodulatory techniques are rapidly supplanting the traditional neuroablative procedures used to treat many types of pain. Methods. A MEDLINE search was conducted for each of the following procedures: radiofrequency facet denervation, cordotomy, myelotomy, sympathectomy, DREZ-otomy, rhizotomy, and ganglionectomy. In the review of each article, special attention given to the outcome, length of follow-up, complications, and number of patients. Summaries of this data were compiled to provided historical perspective, current techniques, indications, and outcomes for each of the aforementioned procedures. The outcomes cited for each procedure generally represent the data from the three or four largest series with adequate follow-up length. Results. The aforementioned procedures have 30% to 90% success rates, with success defined as at least a 50% reduction in perceived pain. These results tend to diminish with time. However, most are associated with a significant degree of morbidity and relatively high complication rates. In addition, many of the techniques lead to deafferentation pain syndromes. Conclusions. Ablative spinal techniques offer pain relief for many patients, but the use of these methods should be considered carefully in the light of available nondestructive procedures that may achieve similar goals with potentially lower morbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2607-2613
Number of pages7
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 15 2002


  • Cordotomy
  • DREZ-otomy
  • Denervation
  • Disease
  • Dorsal rhizotomy
  • Emotional disorder
  • Ganglionectomy
  • Myelotomy
  • Pain
  • Sympathectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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