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Manchikanti L, Kaye AD, Soin A, et al. Comprehensive Evidence-Based Guidelines for Facet Joint Interventions in the Management of Chronic Spinal Pain: American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) Guidelines Facet Joint Interventions 2020 Guidelines. Pain Physician. 2020 May;23(3S):S1-S127. (Evidence-based guideline)
Abstract

BACKGROUND: Chronic axial spinal pain is one of the major causes of significant disability and health care costs, with facet joints as one of the proven causes of pain.

OBJECTIVE: To provide evidence-based guidance in performing diagnostic and therapeutic facet joint interventions.

METHODS: The methodology utilized included the development of objectives and key questions with utilization of trustworthy standards. The literature pertaining to all aspects of facet joint interventions, was reviewed, with a best evidence synthesis of available literature and utilizing grading for recommendations.Summary of Evidence and Recommendations:Non-interventional diagnosis: • The level of evidence is II in selecting patients for facet joint nerve blocks at least 3 months after onset and failure of conservative management, with strong strength of recommendation for physical examination and clinical assessment. • The level of evidence is IV for accurate diagnosis of facet joint pain with physical examination based on symptoms and signs, with weak strength of recommendation. Imaging: • The level of evidence is I with strong strength of recommendation, for mandatory fluoroscopic or computed tomography (CT) guidance for all facet joint interventions. • The level of evidence is III with weak strength of recommendation for single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) . • The level of evidence is V with weak strength of recommendation for scintography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) .Interventional Diagnosis:Lumbar Spine: • The level of evidence is I to II with moderate to strong strength of recommendation for lumbar diagnostic facet joint nerve blocks. • Ten relevant diagnostic accuracy studies with 4 of 10 studies utilizing controlled comparative local anesthetics with concordant pain relief criterion standard of =80% were included. • The prevalence rates ranged from 27% to 40% with false-positive rates of 27% to 47%, with =80% pain relief.Cervical Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation. • Ten relevant diagnostic accuracy studies, 9 of the 10 studies with either controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks or placebo controls with concordant pain relief with a criterion standard of =80% were included. • The prevalence and false-positive rates ranged from 29% to 60% and of 27% to 63%, with high variability. Thoracic Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation. • Three relevant diagnostic accuracy studies, with controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks, with concordant pain relief, with a criterion standard of =80% were included. • The prevalence varied from 34% to 48%, whereas false-positive rates varied from 42% to 58%.Therapeutic Facet Joint Interventions: Lumbar Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for lumbar radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of 11 relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) with 2 negative studies and 4 studies with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for therapeutic lumbar facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of 3 relevant randomized controlled trials, with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is IV with weak strength of recommendation for lumbar facet joint intraarticular injections with inclusion of 9 relevant randomized controlled trials, with majority of them showing lack of effectiveness without the use of local anesthetic. Cervical Spine: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for cervical radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of one randomized controlled trial with positive results and 2 observational studies with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for therapeutic cervical facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of one relevant randomized controlled trial and 3 observational studies, with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is V with weak strength of recommendation for cervical intraarticular facet joint injections with inclusion of 3 relevant randomized controlled trials, with 2 observational studies, the majority showing lack of effectiveness, whereas one study with 6-month follow-up, showed lack of long-term improvement. Thoracic Spine: • The level of evidence is III with weak to moderate strength of recommendation with emerging evidence for thoracic radiofrequency ablation with inclusion of one relevant randomized controlled trial and 3 observational studies. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation for thoracic therapeutic facet joint nerve blocks with inclusion of 2 randomized controlled trials and one observational study with long-term improvement. • The level of evidence is III with weak to moderate strength of recommendation for thoracic intraarticular facet joint injections with inclusion of one randomized controlled trial with 6 month follow-up, with emerging evidence. Antithrombotic Therapy: • Facet joint interventions are considered as moderate to low risk procedures; consequently, antithrombotic therapy may be continued based on overall general status. Sedation: • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation to avoid opioid analgesics during the diagnosis with interventional techniques. • The level of evidence is II with moderate strength of recommendation that moderate sedation may be utilized for patient comfort and to control anxiety for therapeutic facet joint interventions.

LIMITATIONS: The limitations of these guidelines include a paucity of high-quality studies in the majority of aspects of diagnosis and therapy.

CONCLUSIONS: These facet joint intervention guidelines were prepared with a comprehensive review of the literature with methodologic quality assessment with determination of level of evidence and strength of recommendations.

KEY WORDS: Chronic spinal pain, interventional techniques, diagnostic blocks, therapeutic interventions, facet joint nerve blocks, intraarticular injections, radiofrequency neurolysis.

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