Sacroiliac joint interventions: a systematic review

Hans C Hansen, Anne Marie McKenzie-Brown, Steven P Cohen, John R Swicegood, James D Colson, Laxmaiah Manchikanti
Pain Physician 2007, 10 (1): 165-84

BACKGROUND: The sacroiliac joint is a diarthrodial synovial joint with abundant innervation and capability of being a source of low back pain and referred pain in the lower extremity. There are no definite historical, physical, or radiological features to provide definite diagnosis of sacroiliac joint pain, although many authors have advocated provocational maneuvers to suggest sacroiliac joint as a pain generator. An accurate diagnosis is made by controlled sacroiliac joint diagnostic blocks. The sacroiliac joint has been shown to be a source of pain in 10% to 27% of suspected cases with chronic low back pain utilizing controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks. Intraarticular injections, and radiofrequency neurotomy have been described as therapeutic measures. This systematic review was performed to assess diagnostic testing (non-invasive versus interventional diagnostic techniques) and to evaluate the clinical usefulness of interventional techniques in the management of chronic sacroiliac joint pain.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate and update the available evidence regarding diagnostic and therapeutic sacroiliac joint interventions in the management of sacroiliac joint pain.

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review using the criteria as outlined by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Cochrane Review Group Criteria for therapeutic interventions and AHRQ, and Quality Assessment for Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS) for diagnostic studies.

METHODS: The databases of EMBASE and MEDLINE (1966 to December 2006), and Cochrane Reviews were searched. The searches included systematic reviews, narrative reviews, prospective and retrospective studies, and cross-references from articles reviewed. The search strategy included sacroiliac joint pain and dysfunction, sacroiliac joint injections, interventions, and radiofrequency.

RESULTS: The results of this systematic evaluation revealed that for diagnostic purposes, there is moderate evidence showing the accuracy of comparative, controlled local anesthetic blocks. Prevalence of sacroiliac joint pain is estimated to range between 10% and 27% using a double block paradigm. The false-positive rate of single, uncontrolled, sacroiliac joint injections is around 20%. The evidence for provocative testing to diagnose sacroiliac joint pain is limited. For therapeutic purposes, intraarticular sacroiliac joint injections with steroid and radiofrequency neurotomy were evaluated. Based on this review, there is limited evidence for short-term and long-term relief with intraarticular sacroiliac joint injections and radiofrequency thermoneurolysis.

CONCLUSIONS: The evidence for the specificity and validity of diagnostic sacroiliac joint injections is moderate. The evidence for accuracy of provocative maneuvers in diagnosis of sacroiliac joint pain is limited. The evidence for therapeutic intraarticular sacroiliac joint injections is limited. The evidence for radiofrequency neurotomy in managing chronic sacroiliac joint pain is limited.

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