Objective. For radiofrequency neurotomy of the medial branch of the lumbar dorsal rami, physicians use techniques guided either by fluoroscopy or computerized tomography (CT), and advocate for their respective techniques. Crucial to the choice of technique is how well each can capture the target nerve. The present study was, therefore, undertaken to assess in cadavers the accuracy of fluoroscopic-guided and CT-guided techniques.

Design. In10 cadavers preserved with Thiel’s method, electrodes with 10mm active tips were placed in supine position on the right using a fluoroscopic-guided technique, and on the left using a CT-guided technique. Using a special dissection approach, the relationship between the target nerve and the tip of the electrode was revealed. The displacement between electrode and the nerve, and the extent to which the electrode was parallel to the nerve, were measured with callipers.

Results. Under fluoroscopy guidance, electrodes were placed accurately beside the nerve, and were parallel to it for 9 ±1.9 mm. In only two cases did the electrode pass too deeply. Under CT guidance, electrodes often failed to reach the nerve, but when they did they were parallel to it for only 3.2 ± 3.2 mm. In seven cases, the electrode passed too deeply beyond the target nerve.

Conclusion. The fluoroscopy-guided technique can be relied upon to achieve optimal placement of electrodes on the lumbar medial branches. The CT-guided technique fails to do so, and should not be used in practice until a modified version has been developed and validated.

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