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Radiofrequency techniques to treat chronic knee pain: a comprehensive review of anatomy, effectiveness, treatment parameters, and patient selection

Authors Jamison DE, Cohen SP

Received 17 February 2018

Accepted for publication 25 June 2018

Published 18 September 2018 Volume 2018:11 Pages 1879—1888

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S144633

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Colin Mak

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr E Alfonso Romero-Sandoval


David E Jamison,1,2 Steven P Cohen1–6

1Department of Anesthesiology, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Bethesda, MD, USA; 2Department of Anesthesiology, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences (USUHS), Bethesda, MD, USA; 3Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 4Department of Neurology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 5Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA; 6Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, USUHS, Bethesda, MD, USA

Background: The use of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedures to treat chronic knee pain has surged in the past decade, though many questions remain regarding anatomical targets, selection criteria, and evidence for effectiveness.
Methods: A comprehensive literature review was performed on anatomy, selection criteria, technical parameters, results of clinical studies, and complications. Databases searched included MEDLINE and Google Scholar, with all types of clinical and preclinical studies considered.
Results: We identified nine relevant clinical trials, which included 592 patients, evaluating knee RFA for osteoarthritis and persistent postsurgical pain. These included one randomized, placebo-controlled trial, one randomized controlled trial evaluating RFA as add-on therapy, four comparative-effectiveness studies, two randomized trials comparing different techniques and treatment paradigms, and one non-randomized, controlled trial. The results of these studies demonstrate significant benefit for both reduction and functional improvement lasting between 3 and 12 months, with questionable utility for prognostic blocks. There was considerable variation in the described neuroanatomy, neural targets, radiofrequency technique, and selection criteria.
Conclusion: RFA of the knee appears to be a viable and effective treatment option, providing significant benefit to well-selected patients lasting at least 3 months. More research is needed to better identify neural targets, refine selection criteria to include the use of prognostic blocks, optimize treatment parameters, and better elucidate relative effectiveness compared to other treatments.

Keywords: Knee pain, osteoarthritis, radiofrequency, ablation, denervation, genicular nerve

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