Systematic Review of the Effectiveness of Lumbar Medial Branch Thermal Radiofrequency Neurotomy, Stratified for Diagnostic Methods and Procedural Technique

Byron J Schneider, Lisa Doan, Marc K Maes, Kevin R Martinez, Alan Gonzalez Cota, Nikolai Bogduk
Pain Medicine: the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine 2020 June 1, 21 (6): 1122-1141

OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of lumbar medial branch thermal radiofrequency neurotomy based on different selection criteria and procedural techniques.

DESIGN: Comprehensive systematic review.

METHODS: A comprehensive literature search was conducted, and all authors screened and evaluated the studies. The Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation system was used to assess all eligible studies.

OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure assessed was the success rate of the procedure, defined by varying degrees of pain relief following neurotomy. Data are stratified by number of diagnostic blocks and degree of pain relief, as well as procedural technique with perpendicular or parallel placement of electrodes.

RESULTS: Results varied by selection criteria and procedural technique. At six months, 26% of patients selected via single medial branch block with 50% pain relief and treated via perpendicular technique achieved at least 50% pain relief; 49% of patients selected via dual medial branch blocks with 50% pain relief and treated via parallel technique achieved at least 50% pain relief. The most rigorous patient selection and technique-two diagnostic medial branch blocks with 100% pain relief and parallel electrode placement-resulted in 56% of patients experiencing 100% relief of pain at six months.

CONCLUSIONS: This comprehensive systematic review found differences in the effectiveness of lumbar medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy when studies were stratified by patient selection criteria and procedural technique. The best outcomes are achieved when patients are selected based on high degrees of pain relief from dual medial branch blocks with a technique employing parallel electrode placement.

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