University of Wisconsin–Madison Medical College of Wisconsin

Neck Pain Secondary to Post Radiation Fibrosis Managed With Ultrasound-Guided Adhesiolysis

Mackenzie McGrath, MD; Hariharan Shankar, MBBS

WMJ. 2023;122(4):298-301.

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Background: Radiation therapy may result in complications, including fibrosis, which can result in pain and difficulty with movement – especially in the neck.

Case Presentation: A 52-year-old man with right-sided vague neck pain unresponsive to conservative management had a computed tomography scan that showed a vagal paraganglioma in the carotid sheath surrounding the right carotid arteries and internal jugular vein. Following radiation therapy, he noticed a new pain in his right jaw and neck worse with certain movements of the neck. Nonsurgical conservative measures including physical therapy and pharmacological management were unsuccessful. An ultrasound evaluation demonstrated fibrosis beneath the sternocleidomastoid muscle and in proximity to the carotid sheath. After careful trajectory planning using ultrasound imaging, a 25 G needle was introduced real time in proximity to the fibrosis. Using a dexamethasone/saline mixture under real-time ultrasound guidance, adhesions were released. After 3 injections, the patient reported greater than 90% pain relief, which lasted 4 months. Subsequently, he required similar injections approximately every 3 months to achieve greater than 75% pain relief.

Conclusions: This is a successful demonstration of the utility of ultrasound evaluation and guidance for adhesiolysis following radiation therapy.

Author Affiliations: Department of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Milwaukee, Wisconsin (McGrath); Anesthesiology Division, Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center, MCW, Milwaukee, Wis (Shankar).
Corresponding Author: Hariharan Shankar, MBBS, Anesthesiology Division/Pain Clinic, Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center, 5000 W National Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53295; phone 414.384.2000 X 42104; email; ORCID ID 0000-0002-1567-3887
Funding/Support: None declared.
Financial Disclosures: None declared.
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