Meta-analysis| Volume 38, ISSUE 7, P2287-2302, July 2022

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Radiofrequency Ablation in Cooled Monopolar or Conventional Bipolar Modality Yields More Beneficial Short-Term Clinical Outcomes Versus Other Treatments for Knee Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Published:February 11, 2022DOI:


      To evaluate various radiofrequency ablation (RFA) treatments for knee osteoarthritis (OA) and determine the best modality, target, number of electrodes, and image guidance for improving knee pain and function.


      Electronic databases were searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the efficacy of RFA treatments for knee OA from inception up to September 30, 2021. The primary outcome was the visual analog scale (VAS), and the secondary outcome was the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). Bayesian network meta-analysis was performed to synthesize the mean difference (MD) and rank the comparative effectiveness of treatments.


      A total of 21 eligible RCTs (from 2011 to 2021, involving 1,818 patients) with 8 RFA treatments, 6 intra-articular injections, NSAIDS, exercise, and placebo were assessed. Conventional bipolar genicular nerve RFA (GNRFA) had the greatest net benefit on the VAS at 6 months (MD, −5.5; 95% confidence interval [CI], −4.3 to −6.7; SUCRA, .98). And cooled monopolar GNRFA had the greatest net benefit on the WOMAC at 6 months (MD, −33; 95% CI, −37 to −29; SUCRA, .99). In conventional and pulsed modalities, bipolar RFA was associated with a significant decrease in VAS and WOMAC than monopolar RFA. Combining pulsed intra-articular RFA and platelet-rich plasma injection had no additional positive effects on VAS or WOMAC at 3 months.


      RFA is effective in improving both knee pain and function in patients with OA, at least in the short term (6 months). Patients respond better to the cooled modality than the conventional and pulsed modalities. Bipolar is more effective than monopolar for improving pain and function in conventional and pulsed modalities. Fluoroscopy and ultrasound guidance showed no differences in improving pain and function. The effectiveness of RFA in cooled modality using bipolar or in combination with various intra-articular injections remains to be compared.

      Level of Evidence

      II, systematic review and meta-analysis of Level I and II studies.
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