The role of radiofrequency ablation for sacroiliac joint pain: a meta-analysis

PM R. 2010 Sep;2(9):842-51. doi: 10.1016/j.pmrj.2010.03.035.


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has become an option for those with chronic or refractory sacroiliac (SI) joint pain. The purpose of this critical review is to assess the existing literature and conduct a meta-analysis to assess the effectiveness of RFA of the SI joint for pain relief at 3 and 6 months' after an RFA procedure. An electronic search of PubMed, OVID, Medline, and CINAHL were conducted with keywords; sacroiliac joint, sacroiliac pain, sacroiliac syndrome, sacroiliac radiofrequency ablation, sacroiliac neurolysis, sacroiliac injection, and low back pain. Articles that addressed RFA of the SI joint were reviewed. Ten articles ranging from inception to January 1, 2010, were found. The main outcome measure was a reduction of pain by ≥50% post-RFA procedure. At 3 months, 7 groups met the criteria and at 6 months, 6 groups met the criteria. A meta-analysis with a forest plot was done at the 3- and 6-month patient follow-up intervals. The associated standard error was calculated for each study group. An overall weighted average with respective standard error was also obtained. A calculation of 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) was then derived. A test for heterogeneity, publication bias, and file drawer effect was also done at the 3- and 6-month intervals. At 3 months, a range of 0.538-0.693 was found to have a 95% CI, with a pooled mean of 0.616. At 6 months, a 95% CI of 0.423-0.576 was found, with a pooled mean of 0.499. The meta-analysis demonstrated that RFA is an effective treatment for SI joint pain at 3 months and 6 months. This study is limited by the available literature and lack of randomized controlled trials. Further standardization of RFA lesion techniques needs to be established, coupled with prospective randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Arthralgia / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation* / methods
  • Humans
  • Nerve Block
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sacroiliac Joint / innervation
  • Sacroiliac Joint / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome