Park S, Park S, Jang JN, et al. Radiofrequency ablation versus intra-articular mesenchymal stem cell injection for knee osteoarthritis: a systematic review and network meta-analysis. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2024 Jun 14:rapm-2024-105526. doi: 10.1136/rapm-2024-105526. (Systematic review)

BACKGROUND: Knee osteoarthritis (OA) is a prevalent degenerative disease and causes disability, pain and imposes a substantial burden on patients. Conventional treatments for knee OA show limited effectiveness. Consequently, innovative treatments, such as radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and intra-articular mesenchymal stem cells (IA MSC), have gained attention for addressing these limitations.

OBJECTIVE: We compared the efficacy of RFA and IA MSC for knee OA through a network meta-analysis (NMA).

EVIDENCE REVIEW: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Library, Web of Science and handsearching. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing RFA or IA MSC to conventional treatments for knee OA were included. The primary outcomes comprised the pain score and the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). The clinical outcomes were compared using a frequentist approach, and the treatments were ranked using the surface under the cumulative ranking curve (SUCRA) values.

FINDINGS: We included 34 RCTs (n=2371). Our NMA revealed that RFA and IA MSC were significantly more effective than conventional treatments in managing pain at both 3 and 6 months with moderate certainty. Specifically, RFA demonstrated the highest SUCRA values, indicating its superior efficacy. For WOMAC scores, both RFA and MSC showed significant improvements at 3 months, with RFA maintaining its lead at 6 months, although MSC did not display significant superiority at this stage.

CONCLUSIONS: This analysis suggests that RFA and MSC are resilient treatment options in knee OA. Despite some study heterogeneity, these treatments consistently outperformed conventional treatments, particularly in the short to mid-term, although with varying levels of certainty in their efficacy.


Discipline Area Score
Physician 5 / 7
Comments from MORE raters

Physician rater

The effectiveness of intra-articular stem cell injection is controversial. Publications on the subject are not convincing and I perceive this review as too superficial.

Physician rater

RFA and IA MSC are probably not available in routine clinical care in most countries. Some controls are poorly defined (e.g., "conservative"). Adverse events and costs were not analysed.
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