The Effectiveness and Safety of Genicular Nerve Radiofrequency Ablation for the Treatment of Recalcitrant Knee Pain Due to Osteoarthritis: a Comprehensive Literature Review

  • Quinn TateEmail author
  • Aaron Conger
  • Taylor Burnham
  • Daniel M. Cushman
  • Richard Kendall
  • Byron Schneider
  • Zachary L. McCormick
Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation (B Schneider, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation


Purpose of Review

Review the effectiveness and safety of current treatment protocols for fluoroscopically guided genicular nerve radiofrequency ablation (RFA) used for recalcitrant knee pain secondary to osteoarthritis (OA).

Recent Findings

Randomized controlled trials and cohort studies of fluoroscopically guided RFA of the genicular nerves demonstrate variability in responder rates from 59% at 3 months to as high as 74% at 6 month follow-up. Studies that investigated the prognostic value of genicular nerve blocks to select patients for RFA demonstrate no difference in outcomes with current treatment protocols. Other factors that may influence the success rate of this procedure include radiologic severity of osteoarthritis, longer duration of knee pain, smoking, and bilateral knee pain. Relative safety of this procedure has been shown with no adverse events reported in reviewed trials, but several case reports demonstrate there are risks associated with this procedure. Recent neuroanatomical studies show additional genicular nerves that could likely be safely targeted by RFA, yet are not included in current treatment protocols.


RFA provides an effective treatment option for patients with recalcitrant chronic knee pain secondary to OA with up to 74% of patients experiencing greater than 50% pain relief at 6 months. The procedure is relatively safe, but risks should be weighed against potential benefits. Further research is needed to determine need for prognostic blocks, determine prognostic radiologic factors, and determine changes in effectiveness with updated treatment protocols that target more genicular nerves.


Genicular RFA Genicular neurotomy Osteoarthritis Genicular nerves Radiofrequency ablation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Zachary McCormick reports service on the board of directors of the Spine Intervention Society. Quinn Tate, Aaron Conger, Taylor Burnham, Daniel Cushman, Richard Kendall, and Byron Schneider declare no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Quinn Tate
    • 1
    Email author
  • Aaron Conger
    • 1
  • Taylor Burnham
    • 1
  • Daniel M. Cushman
    • 1
  • Richard Kendall
    • 1
  • Byron Schneider
    • 2
  • Zachary L. McCormick
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA
  2. 2.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

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