OBJECTIVE: Pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) is a nonablative pain treatment that uses radiofrequency current in short high-voltage bursts, resulting in interruption of nociceptive afferent pathways. We conducted a systematic review with the aim to create a synthesis of evidence about the efficacy and safety of PRF applied to the dorsal root ganglion (DRG) for the treatment of neuropathic pain.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, CINAHL, Embase, and PsycINFO through January 8, 2019, as well as ClinicalTrials.gov and the clinical trial register of the World Health Organization. All study designs were eligible. We assessed risk of bias using the Cochrane tool for randomized controlled trials and the Risk Of Bias In Non-Randomized Studies of Interventions (ROBINS-I). We assessed level of evidence using the Oxford tool and quality of evidence with GRADE.
RESULTS: We included 28 studies with participants suffering from lumbosacral, cervical, or thoracic radicular pain, post-herpetic neuralgia, neuropathicbone pain in cancer patients, or carpal tunnel syndrome. Only five studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs), while others were of nonrandomized designs, predominantly before and after comparisons. A total of 991 participants were included, with a median number (range) of 31 (1-101) participants. Only 204 participants were included in the RCTs, with a median number (range) of 38 (23-62) participants. The overall quality of evidence was low, as the majority of the included studies were rated as evidence level 4 or 5. The quality of evidence was very low.
CONCLUSIONS: Evidence about the efficacy and safety of PRF of the DRG for the treatment of neuropathic pain is based mainly on results from very small studies with low evidence quality. Current research results about the benefits of PRF of the DRG for the treatment of neuropathic pain should be considered preliminary and confirmed in high-quality RCTs with sufficient numbers of participants.
Based on this review, paucity of data makes the ability to evaluate PRF very limited. Nonetheless, the lack of data should alert clinicians that we don't really know if this treatment is effective or not. Fortunately, minimal harm associated with PRF.
The information of this systematic review does not add new information about the treatment of neuropathic pain using PRF of the DRG. The conclusion is obvious and the heterogeinity of studies impairs the realization of a meta analysis.