Long-term retrospective assessment of clinical efficacy of radiofrequency ablation of the knee using a cooled radiofrequency system

Leonardo Kapural, Nicholas Lee, Kevin Neal, Michael Burchell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Cooled radiofrequency ablation (CRFA) in a randomized, prospective study demonstrated significantly greater improvements in pain, functional, and global outcome measures. Objectives: This large, real-life, retrospective study evaluated the long-term effectiveness of CRFA in the general chronic knee pain population. Study Design: Retrospective electronic chart review. Setting: Outpatient private practice. Methods: After institutional review board approval, we reviewed data of 275 consecutive patients who had undergone a geniculate nerve block at a single-site pain practice between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2017. A total of 44 patients had a negative response to the geniculate block, and 11 patients had long-term pain relief from the block and declined CRFA. Eight patients underwent knee surgery after the block, and 7 never followed up for further treatment. Finally, 205 patients had undergone CRFA, and 183 (89%) of them returned to provide data. Results: The average age of the 183 patients was 61 (28-95) years, body mass index 34 (18.5- 57), and there were 105 women and 78 men. A total of 137 patients had unilateral knee pain, whereas 46 patients had bilateral knee pain. Eighty percent (146/183) reported at least one or more additional sources of chronic pain (back, shoulder, and others). The average opioid use at baseline was 50 mg morphine sulfate equivalents (median 30 mg). The average baseline pain scores were 8.5, which decreased to 2.2 after the geniculate local anesthetic block, and to 4.2 after CRFA. A total of 65% of the patients claimed > 50% pain relief, whereas 77% had 2 or more Visual Analog Scale points decrease, and 26 (14%) patients reported no pain at all after CRFA. The mean duration of > 50% pain relief after CRFA was 12.5 months (range 0-35 months). There was no significant decrease of opioid use. Patients who underwent a repeated procedure (n = 43) achieved a similar pain relief (P = 0.402). We could not find a statistical difference in geniculate CRFA outcomes between the group who had total knee arthroplasty (TKA; n = 21) and maintained chronic knee pain and patients who had no prior surgery (P = 0.542). Limitations: Retrospective nature of the study. Conclusions: This study demonstrates the clinical effectiveness of CRFA in the treatment of chronic knee pain from osteoarthritis, and even in those patients who maintained chronic knee pain after TKA. Our real-life data seems to agree with data previously published in a randomized controlled trial, despite the fact that this was quite a heterogenous patient population with various sources of chronic pain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-494
Number of pages6
JournalPain physician
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Chronic knee pain
  • Knee osteoarthritis
  • Radiofrequency ablation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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