Validation of a new protocol for ultrasound-guided genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation with accurate anatomical targets: cadaveric study

Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2021 Mar;46(3):210-216. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2020-101936. Epub 2020 Dec 3.


Introduction: Ultrasound (US)-guided radiofrequency ablation (RFA) of genicular nerves (GNs) is increasingly performed to manage chronic knee pain. The anatomical foundations supporting the choice of original targets for US-guided GN-RFA have been thoroughly improved by recent anatomical studies. Therefore, this study aimed to provide a new protocol with revised anatomical targets for US-guided GN-RFA and to assess their accuracy in a cadaveric model.

Materials and methods: Fourteen fresh-frozen cadaveric knees were used. After a pilot study with 4 knees, five consistent nerves were targeted in the other 10 knees with revised anatomical landmarks: superior medial genicular nerve (SMGN), superior lateral genicular nerve (SLGN), inferior medial genicular nerve (IMGN), recurrent fibular nerve (RFN) and the infrapatellar branch of the saphenous nerve (IPBSN). For each nerve, the lumen of radiofrequency (RF) cannula was prefilled with non-diffusible black paint, and then the cannula was inserted at the target site under US guidance. After US verification of correct placement, the stylet was introduced in the cannula to create a limited black mark on the tissues at the top of the active tip. Anatomical dissection was performed to assess for accuracy.

Results: The proportion of nerves directly found in contact with the black mark was 7/10, 8/10, 10/10 and 9/10 for the SMGN, SLGN, IMGN and RFN, respectively. The proportions of nerve captured by the theoretical largest monopolar RF lesions were 100% for the SMGN, IMGN and RFN, and IPBSN and 95% for SLGN. The mean distances from the center of the black mark to the targeted nerve were 2.1±2.2 mm, 1.0±1.4 mm, 0.75±1.1 mm and 2.4±4.5 mm for the SMGN, SLGN, IMGN and RFN, respectively.

Conclusion: US-guided GN-RFA with revised anatomical targets resulted in accurate capture of the five targeted nerves. This protocol provides precise sensory denervation of a larger panel of nerves, targeting those whose constancy regarding anatomical location has been clearly demonstrated. It is expected to improve the clinical outcomes.

Keywords: chronic pain; pain management; ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Knee Joint* / diagnostic imaging
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiofrequency Ablation*
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional