Cost-Effectiveness of Radiofrequency Denervation for Patients With Chronic Low Back Pain: The MINT Randomized Clinical Trials

Value Health. 2020 May;23(5):585-594. doi: 10.1016/j.jval.2019.12.009. Epub 2020 Feb 29.


Objectives: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of radiofrequency denervation when added to a standardized exercise program for patients with chronic low back pain.

Methods: An economic evaluation was conducted alongside 3 pragmatic multicenter, nonblinded randomized clinical trials (RCTs) in The Netherlands with a follow up of 52 weeks. Eligible participants were included between January 1, 2013, and October 24, 2014, and had chronic low back pain; a positive diagnostic block at the facet joints (n = 251), sacroiliac (SI) joints (n = 228), or a combination of facet joints, SI joints, and intervertebral discs (n = 202); and were unresponsive to initial conservative care. Quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) and societal costs were measured using self-reported questionnaires. Missing data were imputed using multiple imputation. Bootstrapping was used to estimate statistical uncertainty.

Results: After 52 weeks, no difference in costs between groups was found in the facet joint or combination RCT. The total costs were significantly higher for the intervention group in the SI joint RCT. The maximum probability of radiofrequency denervation being cost-effective when added to a standardized exercise program ranged from 0.10 in the facet joint RCT to 0.17 in the SI joint RCT irrespective of the ceiling ratio, and 0.65 at a ceiling ratio of €30 000 per QALY in the combination RCT.

Conclusions: Although equivocal among patients with symptoms in a combination of the facet joints, SI joints, and intervertebral discs, evidence suggests that radiofrequency denervation combined with a standardized exercise program cannot be considered cost-effective from a societal perspective for patients with chronic low back pain originating from either facet or SI joints in a Dutch healthcare setting.

Keywords: economic evaluation; low back pain; radiofrequency denervation; randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / surgery*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Denervation*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / surgery*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / innervation*
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Radiofrequency Therapy*
  • Sacroiliac Joint / innervation
  • Sacroiliac Joint / surgery
  • Self Report
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / innervation
  • Zygapophyseal Joint / surgery