BACKGROUND: The diagnosis and treatment of neuropathic pain is often clinically challenging, with many patients requiring treatments beyond oral medications. To improve our percutaneous treatments, we established a clinical pathway that utilized ultrasound (US) guidance for steroid injection and alcohol ablation for patients with painful neuropathy.
OBJECTIVES: To describe a collaborative neuropathy treatment pathway developed by a neurosurgeon, pain physicians, and a sonologist, describing early clinical experiences and patient-reported outcomes.
STUDY DESIGN: A retrospective case series was performed.
METHODS: Patients that received percutaneous alcohol ablation with US guidance for neuropathy were identified through a retrospective review of a single provider's case log. Demographics and treatment information were collected from the electronic medical record. Patients were surveyed about their symptoms and treatment efficacy. Descriptive statistics were expressed as medians and the interquartile range ([IQR]; 25th and 75th data percentiles). Differences in the median follow-up pain scores were assessed using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test.
RESULTS: Thirty-five patients underwent US-guided alcohol ablation, with the average patient receiving one treatment (range: 1 to 2), having a median duration of 4.8 months until reinjection (IQR: 2.9 to 13.1). The median number of steroid injections that individuals received before US-guided alcohol ablation was 2 (IQR: 1 to 3), and the median interval between steroid injections was 3.7 months (IQR: 2.0 to 9.6). Most (20/35 [57%]) patients responded to the survey, and the median pain scores decreased by 3 units (median: -3, IQR: -6 to 0; P < 0.001) one week following the alcohol ablation. This pain reduction remained significant at one month (P < 0.001) and one year (P = 0.002) following ablation. Most (12/20 [60%]) patients reported that alcohol ablation was more effective in improving their pain than oral pain medications.
LIMITATIONS: Given the small sample size, treatment efficacy for alcohol neurolysis cannot be generalized to the broader population.
CONCLUSIONS: US-guided percutaneous treatments for neuropathic pain present a growing opportunity for interprofessional collaboration between neurosurgery, clinicians who treat chronic pain, and sonologists. US can provide valuable diagnostic information and guide accurate percutaneous treatments in skilled hands. Further studies are warranted to determine whether a US-guided treatment pathway can prevent unnecessary open surgical management.
Reeves, Russell A.; Miller, Cole J.; Wang, Dajie; Ng, Andrew; Heller, Joshua E.; and Nazarian, Levon N., "Use of High-Resolution Ultrasound to Guide Alcohol Neurolysis for Chronic Pain" (2022). Department of Radiology Faculty Papers. Paper 150.
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