BACKGROUND: Effective treatment of low back pain (LBP) originating in the lumbar and sacroiliac joints is difficult to achieve. The objective of the current study was to compare the clinical effectiveness of radiofrequency (RF) neurotomy versus conservative nonsurgical approaches for the management of chronic lumbar and sacroiliac joint pain. METHODS: The PICOS framework was adhered to (P [population]: patients with a history of chronic function-limiting lumbar and sacroiliac joint pain lasting at least 6 months; I [intervention]: RF neurotomy; C [comparator]: other nonsurgical treatments; O [outcomes]: the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), measurement for pain, and a quality of life (QoL) questionnaire; S [study design]: meta-analysis). Two trained investigators systematically searched Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE, and ISI Web of Knowledge databases for relevant studies published in English through March 2019. RESULTS: Patients treated with RF neurotomy (n = 528) had significantly greater improvement in ODI scores, pain scores and QoL measured by EQ-5D compared with controls (n = 457); however, significant heterogeneity was observed when data were pooled from eligible studies. In subgroup analyses, patients who received RF neurotomy had a significantly greater improvement in ODI scores compared with those with sham treatment. Patients treated with RF achieved significantly greater improvement in pain scores compared with controls who received sham treatment or medical treatment. In a subgroup analysis of pain in the sacroiliac joint and in lumbar facet joints, the RF neurotomy group achieved a significantly greater improvement in ODI score and pain scores compared with the control group. The ODI score and pain score were improved after 2 months of follow up in the analyses stratified by follow-up duration. CONCLUSIONS: Use of RF neurotomy as an intervention for chronic lumbar and sacroiliac joint pain led to improved function; however, larger, more directly comparable studies are needed to confirm this study's findings.
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