THURSDAY, Nov. 19, 2020 — A procedure that “stuns” pain-sensing nerves might offer relief to people with severe arthritis of the hip or shoulder, a small, preliminary study suggests.
The procedure is a form of radiofrequency ablation, where doctors use needles to send a low-grade electrical current to nerves that are transmitting pain signals from the arthritic joint to the brain. The current heats and damages the nerve fibers, rendering them unable to deliver those pain messages.
In the United States, a number of ablation devices are cleared for treating low back pain and knee osteoarthritis.
At this point, the procedure is slowly becoming a more established treatment, said Dr. Felix Gonzalez, a radiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.
But whether ablation can help patients with severe hip or shoulder arthritis is unclear.
To find out, Gonzalez and his colleagues treated 23 patients whose hip or shoulder pain had become so bad that anti-inflammatory painkillers and cortisone injections — two standard treatments — were no longer helping.
Before undergoing ablation, and again three months later, patients answered standard questionnaires gauging their pain and daily function.
In the end, the study found, patients with shoulder arthritis reported an 85% drop in their pain ratings, on average. Among hip arthritis patients, pain declined by an average of 70%.
Gonzalez called the results “promising” and said, in his experience, there have been no major complications from the procedure, such as bleeding or infections — though those are potential risks.…