Background: Sacroiliac joint pain is a challenging condition accounting for approximately 20% of cases of chronic low back pain. Currently, there are no effective long-term treatment options for sacroiliac joint pain.
Methods: A randomized placebo-controlled study was conducted in 28 patients with injection-diagnosed sacroiliac joint pain. Fourteen patients received L4-L5 primary dorsal rami and S1-S3 lateral branch radiofrequency denervation using cooling-probe technology after a local anesthetic block, and 14 patients received the local anesthetic block followed by placebo denervation. Patients who did not respond to placebo injections crossed over and were treated with radiofrequency denervation using conventional technology.
Results: One, 3, and 6 months after the procedure, 11 (79%), 9 (64%), and 8 (57%) radiofrequency-treated patients experienced pain relief of 50% or greater and significant functional improvement. In contrast, only 2 patients (14%) in the placebo group experienced significant improvement at their 1-month follow-up, and none experienced benefit 3 months after the procedure. In the crossover group (n = 11), 7 (64%), 6 (55%), and 4 (36%) experienced improvement 1, 3, and 6 months after the procedure. One year after treatment, only 2 patients (14%) in the treatment group continued to demonstrate persistent pain relief.
Conclusions: These results provide preliminary evidence that L4 and L5 primary dorsal rami and S1-S3 lateral branch radiofrequency denervation may provide intermediate-term pain relief and functional benefit in selected patients with suspected sacroiliac joint pain. Larger studies are needed to confirm these results and to determine the optimal candidates and treatment parameters for this poorly understood disorder.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00373724.