A systematic evaluation of the therapeutic effectiveness of sacroiliac joint interventions

Pain Physician. 2012 May-Jun;15(3):E247-78.


Background: The contribution of the sacroiliac joint to low back and lower extremity pain has been a subject of debate with extensive research. It is generally accepted that approximately 10% to 25% of patients with persistent low back pain may have pain arising from the sacroiliac joints. In spite of this, there are currently no definite conservative, interventional, or surgical management options for managing sacroiliac joint pain. In addition, there continue to be significant variations in the application of various techniques as well as a paucity of literature.

Study design: A systematic review of therapeutic sacroiliac joint interventions.

Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of therapeutic sacroiliac joint interventions.

Methods: The available literature on therapeutic sacroiliac joint interventions in managing chronic low back and lower extremity pain was reviewed. The quality assessment and clinical relevance criteria utilized were the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group criteria for randomized trials of interventional techniques and the criteria developed by the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale for observational studies. The level of evidence was classified as good, fair, or poor based on the quality of evidence developed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Data sources included relevant literature published from 1966 through December 2011 that was identified through searches of PubMed and EMBASE, and manual searches of the bibliographies of known primary and review articles.

Outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was pain relief (short-term relief = up to 6 months and long-term > 6 months). Secondary outcome measures were improvement in functional status, psychological status, return to work, and reduction in opioid intake.

Results: For this systematic review, 56 studies were considered for inclusion. Of these, 45 studies were excluded and a total of 11 studies met inclusion criteria for methodological quality assessment with 6 randomized trials and 5 non-randomized studies. The evidence for cooled radiofrequency neurotomy in managing sacroiliac joint pain is fair.The evidence for effectiveness of intraarticular steroid injections is poor.The evidence for periarticular injections of local anesthetic and steroid or botulinum toxin is poor. The evidence for effectiveness of conventional radiofrequency neurotomy is poor.The evidence for pulsed radiofrequency is poor.

Limitations: The limitations of this systematic review include a paucity of literature on therapeutic interventions, variations in technique, and variable diagnostic standards for sacroiliac joint pain.

Conclusions: The evidence was fair in favor of cooled radiofrequency neurotomy and poor for short-term and long-term relief from intraarticular steroid injections, periarticular injections with steroids or botulin toxin, pulsed radiofrequency, and conventional radiofrequency neurotomy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sacroiliac Joint / physiopathology*
  • Steroids / administration & dosage
  • Steroids / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Steroids