Chronic pain is an incessant burden on the working capacity of individuals. It is a major cause of loss in working hours and productivity of an individual as well as an organization. There are over 1.5 billion people across the globe suffering from chronic pain arising from post-operative recuperation, injuries and accidents. In 2012, it was identified to cost the U.S. over USD 500 billion in the healthcare costs, which does not include losses to corporations due to reduction in productivity. In many cases chronic pain has not been alleviated by several drug therapies, physical treatment, steroid treatment and other alternative therapies. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation for pain management is also known as rhizotomy.
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Radiofrequency ablation was used for pain management more than a decade ago for the first time. The procedure is performed by a pain management specialist with the support of imaging technologies such as x-ray or fluoroscopy for guiding the RF electrode. Pain signals are stopped from communicating with the brain as the ablation procedure temporarily disables the functioning of nerves. A “lesion” is created as the nerves are burnt with a short pulse of RF energy. The treatment is normally an out-patient minimally invasive procedure with local anesthesia administration. Patients who are ideal candidates for this procedure are those suffering from chronic facet pain or lumbar pain, spinal arthritis or spondylitis and complex regional pain syndrome. The numbing effect of the RF ablation procedure may last from six months to two years.
The market for RF ablation in pain management is expected to grow in response to the increasing incidence of chronic pain. The market, which is partially driven by increase in aging population facing arthritic and lumbar pain, is simultaneously driven by the increase in trauma cases over the world due to motor accidents and serious sports injuries. Another significant factor is the efficacy of the technology for reducing pain. The procedure has recorded success in reducing chronic back pain in over 75% of patients and in some research studies has shown a success rate of around 80% reduction in pain.
Kimberly Clark, Cosman Medical, NeuroTherm and Stryker are the leading market players in this field. The procedure is quite common in North America where the market accounts for a majority share. Some other significant players are Integra-Radionics, RS Medical which released the status of their Nimbus RF ablation device for chronic spinal pain in U.S. Although the device is pending FDA approval, it is expected to compete in the market within the next two years.