- 2007;10;229-253A Systematic Review of Therapeutic Facet Joint Interventions in Chronic Spinal Pain
Mark V. Boswell, MD, PhD, James D. Colson, MD, Nalini Sehgal, MD, Elmer E. Dunbar, MD, and Richard Epter, MD.
Background: Facet joints are considered to be a common source of chronic spinal pain. Facet joint interventions, including intraarticular injections, medial branch nerve blocks, and neurotomy (radiofrequency and cryoneurolysis) are used to manage chronic facet-mediated spinal pain. A systematic review of therapeutic facet interventions published in January 2005, concluded that facet interventions were variably effective for short-term and long-term relief of facet joint pain.
Objective: To provide an updated evaluation of the effectiveness of 3 types of facet joint interventions in managing chronic spinal pain.
Study Design: A systematic review utilizing criteria established by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for evaluation of randomized and non-randomized trials and the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group for randomized trials.
Methods: Data sources included relevant literature of the English language identified through searches of MEDLINE and EMBASE (November 2004 to December 2006) and manual searches of bibliographies of known primary and review articles within the last 2 years. Results of the analyses were performed for the different modes of facet joint interventions for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, to determine short- and long-term outcome measurements and complications associated with these procedures.
Outcome Measures: The primary outcome measure was pain relief. For intraarticular facet joint injections and medial branch blocks, short-term pain relief was defined as relief lasting less than 6 weeks and long-term relief as 6 weeks or longer. For medial branch blocks, repeated injections at defined intervals provided long-term pain relief. For medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy, short-term pain relief was defined as relief lasting less than 3 months and long-term relief as lasting 3 months or longer. Other outcome measures included functional improvement, improvement of psychological status, and return to work.
Results: For cervical intraarticular facet joint injections, the evidence is limited for short- and long-term pain relief. For lumbar intraarticular facet joint injections, the evidence is moderate for short- and long-term pain relief. For cervical, thoracic, and lumbar medial branch nerve blocks with local anesthetics (with or without steroids), the evidence is moderate for short- and long-term pain relief with repeat interventions. The evidence for pain relief with radiofrequency neurotomy of cervical and lumbar medial branch nerves is moderate for short- and long-term pain relief, and indeterminate for thoracic facet neurotomy.
Conclusion: With intraarticular facet joint injections, the evidence for short- and long-term pain relief is limited for cervical pain and moderate for lumbar pain. For medial branch blocks, the evidence is moderate for short- and long-term pain relief. For medial branch neurotomy, the evidence is moderate for short- and long-term pain relief.PDF