Study Design. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.
Objective. To assess treatment effects (benefits and harms) of radiofrequency denervation for patients with facet joint–related chronic low back pain.
Summary of Background Data. There is no consensus regarding the treatment efficacy of facet joint radiofrequency denervation (FJRD) and how it compares with nerve blockades and joint infiltration with anesthetics and/or corticosteroids.
Methods. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, and LILACS for randomized controlled trials that compared FJRD with blockades, infiltrations, or placebo. Primary outcomes were pain, functional status, and quality of life. Secondary outcomes were cost-effectiveness and complications.
Results. Fifteen studies were selected and 9 were eligible. Overall quality of evidence was rated low to moderate. The evidence favored FJRD regarding pain control. There was no sufficient evidence for cost-effectiveness and complications.
Conclusion. The available evidence reviewed in this study should be interpreted with caution. The data indicate that FJRD is more effective than placebo in pain control and functional improvement and is also possibly more effective than steroid injections in pain control. Complications and adverse effects were not sufficiently reported to allow comparisons, and there was no evidence for cost-effectiveness. High-quality randomized controlled trials addressing pain, function, quality of life, complications, and cost-effectiveness are urgently needed.
Level of Evidence: 1