Current Issue - November/December 2023 - Vol 26 Issue 7


  1. 2023;23;E737-E759Radiofrequency Ablation’s Effectiveness for Treating Abdominal and Thoracic Chronic Pain Syndromes: A Systematic Review of the Current Literature
    Systematic Review
    Benjamin Vachirakorntong, BS, Eric Kawana, BS, Vladislav Pavlovich Zhitny, MD, Brian J. Mendelson, MD, Brandon Esenther, MD, Adam J. Goodman, MD, and Ryan T. Gualtier, MD.

BACKGROUND: Many patients suffer from abdominal and thoracic pain syndromes secondary to numerous underlying etiologies. Chronic abdominal and thoracic pain can be difficult to treat and often refractory to conservative management. In this systematic literature review, we evaluate the current literature to assess radiofrequency ablation’s (RFA) efficacy for treating these debilitating chronic pain conditions in the thoracic and abdominal regions.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study is to determine the pain relief efficacy of RFA on chronic thoracic and chronic abdominal disease states.

STUDY DESIGN: This study is a systematic literature review that uses the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) method to gather academic literature articles through a methodical approach. The numbers obtained from each academic manuscript were then used to calculate the percent efficacy of radiofrequency ablation on thoracic and abdominal pain relief.

METHODS: Articles from 1992 through 2022 were gathered using PRISMA guidelines. The search terms “Radiofrequency Ablation Thoracic Pain” and “Radiofrequency Ablation Abdominal Pain” were used to identify articles to include in our study. Our search yielded a total of 575 studies, 32 of which were included in our study. The articles were then categorized into pain causes. The efficacy of RFA for each qualitative study was then quantified. Risk of bias was also assessed for articles using the Cochran Risk of Bias tool, as well as a tool made by the National Institutes of Health.

RESULTS: The PRISMA search yielded a total of 32 articles used for our study, including 16 observational studies, one cohort study, 6 case reports, 6 case series, and 3 clinical trials. Twenty-five articles were labeled good quality and one article was labeled fair quality according to the risk of bias assessment tools. The studies examined RFA efficacy on chronic abdominal and chronic pain syndromes such as spinal lesions, postsurgical thoracic pain, abdominal cancers, and pancreatitis. Among these etiologies, RFA demonstrated notable efficacy in alleviating pain among patients with spinal osteoid osteomas or osteoblastomas, lung cancer, and pancreatic cancer. The modes of RFA used varied among the studies; they included monopolar RFA, bipolar RFA, pulsed RFA, and RFA at different temperatures. The average efficacy rate was 84% ranging from 55.8% - 100%. A total of 329 males and 291 females were included with ages ranging 4 to 90 years old.

LIMITATIONS: Limitations of this review include the RFA not being performed at the same nerve level to address the same pathology and the RFA not being performed for the same duration of time. Furthermore, the efficacy of RFA was evaluated via large case series and single cohort observational studies rather than control group observational studies and clinical trial studies.

CONCLUSION: A systematic review of the literature supports RFA as a viable option for managing abdominal and thoracic pain. Future randomized controlled trials are needed to investigate the efficacy of the various RFA modalities to ensure RFA is the source of pain relief as a large body of the current literature focuses only on observational studies.

KEY WORDS: Chronic pain management, radiofrequency ablation, chronic abdominal pain, chronic thoracic pain, pain measurement