Evaluation of nerve capture using classical landmarks for genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation: 3D cadaveric study

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2020 Nov;45(11):898-906. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2020-101894. Epub 2020 Sep 14.


Background and objectives: Radiofrequency (RF) denervation of the superolateral genicular nerve (SLGN), superomedial genicular nerve (SMGN) and inferomedial genicular nerve (IMGN) is commonly used to manage chronic knee joint pain. However, knowledge of articular branches captured, using classical landmarking techniques, remains unclear. In order to enhance and propose new RF procedures that conceivably capture a greater number of articular branches, more detailed cadaveric investigation is required. The objectives were to (1) determine which articular branches are captured or spared using classical landmarking techniques, and (2) evaluate the anatomical feasibility of classical landmarking techniques using three-dimensional (3D) modeling technology.

Methods: Ultrasound-guided classical superolateral/superomedial/inferomedial landmarking techniques were used to position RF cannulae in five specimens. The articular branches, bony and soft tissue landmarks, and cannula tip position, were meticulously dissected, digitized and modeled in 3D. Simulated lesions were positioned at the cannula tip, on the 3D models, to determine which articular branches were captured or spared. Capture rates of articular branches were compared.

Results: In all specimens, classical superolateral/superomedial techniques captured the transverse deep branches of SLGN and SMGN, and articular branches of lateral and medial nerve to vastus intermedius, while sparing distal branches of SLGN/SMGN. The inferomedial technique captured anterior branches of IMGN while sparing the posterior and inferior branches.

Conclusions: This study provides anatomical evidence supporting the effectiveness of classical landmarking for genicular nerve ablation; however, each technique resulted in sparing of articular branches. The extensive innervation of the knee joint suggests the use of supplementary landmarks to improve capture rates and potentially patient outcomes.

Keywords: chronic pain; lower extremity; pain management; ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint* / diagnostic imaging
  • Knee Joint* / surgery
  • Quadriceps Muscle
  • Radiofrequency Ablation*