Pulsed radiofrequency: A critical review of its efficacy

K. Malik*, H. T. Benzon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Pulsed radiofrequency is a growingly popular pain treatment modality. However, its clinical efficacy remains controversial. In this review, the available literature on pulsed radiofrequency is critically analysed to determine its clinical efficacy. Our search of the literature for pulsed radiofrequency yielded 341 citations; after reviewing the abstracts we found 51 relevant articles. There were 4 review articles: 44 articles pertained to the application of pulsed radiofrequency by an electrode placed in the vicinity of a neural structure. Of these only two were randomised controlled trials. Of the remaining 42 articles, one was a non-randomised controlled trial, three were prospective uncontrolled trials: there were six retrospective studies, 11 case reports, eight laboratory studies, two position papers, five editorials and seven items of correspondence, while one publication reported two studies. Three articles pertained to transcutaneous application of pulsed radiofrequency. Of the two randomised controlled trials, one reported efficacy of the pulsed radiofrequency while the other reported it to be ineffective. The majority of the uncontrolled and observational studies reported clinical efficacy of pulsed radiofrequency, however many of these studies had limitations. Further randomised controlled clinical trials are recommended in order for the practising pain physician to clearly understand the role of pulsed radiofrequency in the treatment of various chronic pain syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)863-873
Number of pages11
JournalAnaesthesia and Intensive Care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Chronic pain
  • Pain
  • Pulsed radiofrequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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