Epidural Lysis of Adhesions, Adhesiolysis, is also known as the Racz Procedure. The procedure’s name comes from “Adhesion” meaning scar tissue and “Lysis” meaning to dissolve or destroy. This is a minimally invasive procedure that was developed in the late 1980′s by Dr. Gabor Racz. The procedure has proven effective treating chronic back and neck pain due to scar tissue formation. Scar tissue can form around nerve roots causing constant unrelenting pain. Adhesions are typically formed due to inflammation and irritation in the epidural space. These adhesions can aggravate nearby nerve roots causing intense pain (Manchikanti 2007). Scar tissue can frequently result in irritated and inflamed nerves, which can cause pain that radiates from the low back into the legs. Most commonly, people who present with neck or back pain due to scar tissue formation have had prior surgeries or prolonged neck or back pain. After spinal surgery, adhesions develop and are thought to be the cause of recurrent pain.
Before performing a procedure your pain physician will review your MRI in order to identify which nerves are likely affected and are responsible for your pain. Initially a series of epidural steroid injections are often performed to localize and treat your pain. If scar tissue is the cause for your pain then the response to the epidural steroid injections may be limited. Once scar tissue is thought to be the cause of you pain you will be schedule for the Racz Procedure. Epidural Lysis of Adhesions is performed by injecting a local anesthetic with a small needle into the skin above your buttock. Once the area is numb, then using a larger needle a catheter/guide wire is placed into the epidural space using x-ray guidance for proper placement. Once the catheter is in the proper location where the scar tissue is affecting the nerve root, multiple medications (omnipaque, hypertonic saline, hyaluronidase, local anesthetics, and steroids) are injected into the space in order to dissolve the scar tissue and reduce the inflammation and irritation on the nerve. This procedure can be performed over a two-day period with another injection of materials through the catheter the following day to ensure lysis of scar tissue has been achieved. The entire procedure typically is finished in less than an hour and is performed on an outpatient basis, so typically you are able to go home within a few hours of the procedure. Immediately after the injection you may notice that your legs feel heavy and may have some sensory changes, but these are temporary. The local numbing anesthetic wears off in a few hours so you may feel some discomfort once that wears off at the injection site. The inflammation-reducing steroid generally starts working at about forty-eight hours.
Epidural Lysis of Adhesions is considered safe and effective. The purpose of the procedure is to minimize the deleterious effects of epidural scarring, which can physically prevent direct application of drugs to nerves (epidural steroid injections) and other tissues in the treatment of chronic back pain. It is designed to dissolve scar tissue therefore reducing pressure on irritated nerves (Boswell 2007). There is strong evidence for short term and moderate evidence for long-term effectiveness of adhesiolysis and most people who receive the treatment experience significant pain relief, 50% or more reduction in pain (Trescot 2007).
As with all medications and interventions, there are potential risks of complications. Epidural Lysis of Adhesions is considered an appropriate treatment for many patients who suffer from back pain, but does have risks (Boswell 2007). The most common complaint is mild to moderate back pain at the injection site shortly after the procedure. Other more serious and far less common complications include spinal cord compression, excessive intracranial pressure, bleeding, subdural injection, hematoma, or infection. These particular risks are decreased by the use of x-ray imaging, sterile technique and adequate training. The results of a large study show that epidural lysis of adhesions with hypertonic saline is safe and effective in managing chronic low back and lower extremity pain in patients who failed to respond to other conservative modalities of treatments, including epidural steroid injections (Boswell 2007).
The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians developed a large evidence-based practice guideline for the management of chronic spinal pain with interventional techniques. In regards to Epidural Lysis of Adhesions, the guidelines state that there is strong evidence to indicate effectiveness of adhesiolysis with epidural steroids for short and long term pain control in refractory pain and radiculopathy. One of the large retrospective studies showed at less than three months 100% of the patients treated had pain relief (Boswell 2007). Further long-term observation showed results including the following: % of patients who achieved pain relief: < 3 months 3 months 6 months 12 months 100 90 72 52 Another study indicated that overall health status improved significantly in the patients treated with Epidural Lysis of Adhesions. Patients stated that their pain and pain medication use were decreased and their physical health, mental health, functional status, and psychological status were all increased after undergoing adhesiolysis therapy (Manchikanti 2001). Drs Lynch and McJunkin trained under Dr. Gabor Racz the inventor of the Adhesiolysis Procedure (Racz Procedure) and learned this safe innovative technique from him first-hand. If you are suffering from chronic back or neck pain that has been refractory to other treatments contact Arizona Pain Specialists today to see if you can benefit from this innovative treatment.
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- Transforaminal ventral epidural adhesiolysis. Hammer M, Doleys DM, Chung OY. Pain Physician. 2001 Jul;4(3):273-9 PMID: 16900254