Using pulsed radiofrequency ablation to treat pain associated with a tumor involving the brachial plexus

Humair Rana, Gerald Matchett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Pain associated with cancer is often difficult to treat, even more so when tumors involve peripheral nerves. Therapy is complex and often requires a multimodal approach that can include medications, radiation, and interventional techniques. These components are utilized with variable success, but are also limited by known complications or adverse effects. We present the case of a 53-year-old woman with a metastatic axillary tumor that involved her brachial plexus. Attempts to control her pain with medication were unsuccessful despite escalation and use of adjunct agents. She was not deemed to be a surgical candidate due to the size and location of the tumor. Radiation was discussed but, obviously, would not work immediately. Our team decided to employ a brachial plexus catheter for continuous nerve block, which provided almost complete relief of pain. Since her pain was deemed to be of peripheral etiology, pulsed radiofrequency ablation of her brachial plexus was used for more long-term pain relief. The patient responded very well with minimal pain issues and no apparent complications. On follow-up, the patient had good relief for almost 2 months. Pulsed radiofrequency is a poorly understood technology that has increasing evidence for certain pain conditions; however, for cancer and peripheral nerves the evidence is slim to none. Our case presents a successful use for pain management of a brachial plexopathy due to a tumor. We propose that pulsed radiofrequency may present a non-neurodestructive pain management technique for tumors involving peripheral nerves, though more data is definitely needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E311-E314
JournalPain physician
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Brachial plexopathy
  • Brachial plexus
  • Cancer
  • Pain
  • Pulsed radiofrequency
  • Tumor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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