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Radiofrequency Procedures to Relieve Chronic Knee Pain: An Evidence-Based Narrative Review
  2. Philip Peng, MBBS, FRCPC and
  3. Steven P. Cohen, MD
  1. From the *Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management and Institute of Health Policy Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto; and †Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, University Health Network-Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; and ‡Departments of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine & Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
  1. Address correspondence to: Anuj Bhatia, MBBS, MD, FRCA, FRCPC, FIPP, FFPMRCA, EDRA, CIPS, Toronto Western Hospital, McL 2-405, Department of Anesthesia and Pain Management, Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network, 399 Bathurst St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5T 2S8 (e-mail: anuj.bhatia{at}


Background and Objectives Chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis or following arthroplasty is a common problem. A number of publications have reported analgesic success of radiofrequency (RF) procedures on nerves innervating the knee, but interpretation is hampered by lack of clarity regarding indications, clinical protocols, targets, and longevity of benefit from RF procedures.

Methods We reviewed the following medical literature databases for publications on RF procedures on the knee joint for chronic pain: MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Google Scholar up to August 9, 2015. Data on scores for pain, validated scores for measuring physical disability, and adverse effects measured at any timepoint after 1 month following the interventions were collected, analyzed, and reported in this narrative review.

Results Thirteen publications on ablative or pulsed RF treatments of innervation of the knee joint were identified. A high success rate of these procedures in relieving chronic pain of the knee joint was reported at 1 to 12 months after the procedures, but only 2 of the publications were randomized controlled trials. There was evidence for improvement in function and a lack of serious adverse events of RF treatments.

Conclusions Radiofrequency treatments on the knee joint (major or periarticular nerve supply or intra-articular branches) have the potential to reduce pain from osteoarthritis or persistent postarthroplasty pain. Ongoing concerns regarding the quality, procedural aspects, and monitoring of outcomes in publications on this topic remain. Randomized controlled trials of high methodological quality are required to further elaborate role of these interventions in this population.

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  • A.B. and P.P. participated in the conception of the review, acquisition, analysis, interpretation of data, and drafting the manuscript. S.C. participated in the conception of the review, analysis, interpretation of data, and drafting the manuscript. A.B. helped design the study, conduct the study, analyze the data, and write the manuscript. P.P. and S.C. helped design and conduct the study.

    The authors declare no conflict of interest.