Current Issue - March/April - Vol 24 Issue 2


  1. 2021;24;E169-E176Review of the Safety of Bipolar Radiofrequency Ablation in Patients with Chronic Pain with Implantable Cardiac Rhythm Management Devices
    Literature Review
    Rewais Hanna, BS, and Alaa Abd-Elsayed, MD.

BACKGROUND: Chronic pain, especially low back pain and hip pain, has been a growing public health concern that affects over 100 million Americans annually. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has distinct advantages over other chronic pain management modalities and its use has been increasing over the past decade. Among the growing population with comorbid conduction disorders and persistent pain, RFA and its potential interference with implantable cardiac devices is of concern.

RFA is becoming a foundational element of persistent pain management and has been shown to be effective in a multitude of chronic pain syndromes. Cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIED), such as cardiac pacemakers or implantable cardioverter defibrillators, have been used in the treatment of cardiac conduction diseases for a number of decades. With our aging population, these diseases have increased in both incidence and prevalence. Chronic pain and cardiac conduction diseases are both common in our increasingly aging population.

OBJECTIVES: This study aims to determine if the literature supports the hypothesis that patients with CIEDs can safely use RFA with minimal to no interaction.

STUDY DESIGN: Systematic assessment of literature with a modified approach with bipolar RFA.

METHODS: A narrative review with systematic assessment of the literature was carried out. In this review, we included randomized controlled trials (RCTs), open non-randomized control studies, prospective studies, retrospective studies, case series, and case reports. All types of radiofrequency utilized for pain management including pulsed and conventional were included. Outcome measures included interactions between the cardiovascular implantable electronic device (CIED) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA), adverse events, RFA efficacy in treating the pain using pain scores, and other complications.  

RESULTS: Our search criteria yielded 4 studies for inclusion, with inclusion of 33 patients and 71 bipolar radiofrequency for treatments. No adverse events or interactions occurred between the bipolar radiofrequency device and the implanted cardiac devices in any of these patients. Bipolar radiofrequency was utilized in all patients (n = 33). Overall there were no complications or malfunctions.

LIMITATIONS: Small sample size, narrative review.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provides evidence that bipolar RFA can be safely used in patients with CIEDs for chronic pain provided that proper precautions are employed. Considerations for safe use are provided.

KEY WORDS: Chronic pain, CIED, radiofrequency ablation