Despite the availability of effective treatments, there are still an estimated 16 million adults in the United States that are suffering from chronic back pain. This points to the need for additional options, as well as better communication about their availability and effectiveness. A recent study looked at the basivertebral nerve ablation as a solution.
Basivertebral nerve ablation targets the basivertebral nerve of the vertebral endplate, the region that serves as an interface between the vertebra and the disk. This area has a robust supply of nerves that send pain messages, and as endplate changes arise from disk degeneration, these nerves play a significant role in chronic lower back pain.
To explore the potential benefits of this procedure, the Indiana Spine Group in Carmel, Indiana collaborated with teams from the University of Texas—Dell Medical School, and the Ascension Texas Spine and Scoliosis Center in Austin, Texas. According to co-author Eric Truumees, M.D., a spine surgeon at the Ascension Texas Spine and Scoliosis Center, “While most people with low back pain get better on their own or with traditional, non-operative management, it is a common enough problem that there are huge numbers of people with chronic low back pain that markedly interferes with their function and quality of life. For these patients, larger, fusion surgeries or arthroplasty are options, but they have significant limitations, too. I was interested in a ‘medium hammer’—a more efficacious treatment for chronic low back pain that did not require segmental fusion or implant placement.”
To test the impact of basivertebral nerve ablation, the group studied 47 patients who had undergone the procedure. The patients were followed for 12 months and assessed for changes in their level of disability and other quality measures. The team found that at the one year point, there was a significant improvement in patients’ level of function, with a mean reduction in disability of 32.31. Forty out of 45 patients who completed the 12-month follow-up reported more than a 15-point decrease in disability after a year and more than 69% reported a 50% reduction in pain. Other metrics showed significant improvements as well.
According to Dr. Truumees, “This study sought to confirm the effectiveness of the Intracept procedure that had been demonstrated in randomized trials in a more permissive, typical clinical environment. It found that 75.56% of the patients studied achieved a good clinical response. In this case that meant a combined threshold of ≥ 20- point ODI and ≥ 2-point VAS improvement.”
Though the researchers were encouraged by these positive results, they are also concerned about the 25% of respondents that did not experience success. They also want to see what impact the procedure will have farther in the future, for example at the five-year mark, and whether patients for whom the procedure did not work ended up getting benefit from more aggressive procedures such as arthroplasty or fusion surgeries.
If you are suffering from chronic lower back pain, our New Jersey spine specialty practice has many options available to provide you with relief. Contact us today to learn more.