Multifidus Denervation After Radiofrequency Ablation of the Medial Nerve Alters the Biomechanics of the Spine—A Computational Study

Faris A. Almalki, Daniel H. Cortes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiofrequency ablation of the medial branch is commonly used to treat chronic low back pain involving facet joints, which accounts for 12% to 37% of the total cases of chronic low back pain. An adverse effect of this procedure is the denervation of the multifidus muscle, which may lead to its atrophy which can affect the spine and possibly disc degeneration. This study aims to quantify changes in joint angles and loading caused by multifidus denervation after radiofrequency ablation. AnyBody model of the torso was used to evaluate intervertebral joints in flexion, lateral bending, and torsion. Force-dependent kinematics was used to calculate joint angles and forces. These dependent variables were investigated in intact multifidus, unilateral, and bilateral ablations of L3L4, L4L5, and L5S1 joints. The results showed pronounced angular joint changes, especially in bilateral ablations in flexion, when compared with other cases. The same changes’ trend from intact to unilaterally then bilaterally ablated multifidus occurred in joint angles of lateral bending. Meanwhile, joint forces were not adversely affected. These results suggest that multifidus denervation after radiofrequency ablation affects spinal mechanics. Such changes may be associated with abnormal tissue deformations and stresses that can potentially alter their mechanobiology and homeostasis, thereby possibly affecting the health of the spine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-421
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of applied biomechanics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine

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