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12.01.2021 | Review Open Access

Interventional Radiofrequency Treatment for the Sympathetic Nervous System: A Review Article

Pain and Therapy
Nicholas A. Zacharias, Jay Karri, Carol Garcia, Laura K. Lachman, Alaa Abd-Elsayed



Interventional techniques such as radiofrequency (RF) treatment can be used to interrupt pain signals transmitted through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). RF treatments including the pulsed (PRF) and continuous (CRF) modalities show enhanced control over lesion size and enhanced ability to confirm accurate positioning compared to other interventional methods. PRF also acts to reduce the area of the lesion. In this article, we characterize the currently available evidence supporting the use and efficacy of RF treatments in sympathetically mediated pain (SMP) conditions.

Study Design

A comprehensive literature review.


A PubMed and Cochrane Library database search was performed for human studies applying RF treatment at sympathetic sites (sphenopalatine ganglion, stellate ganglion, cervical, thoracic, or lumbar sympathetic ganglia, celiac plexus, splanchnic nerves, superior hypogastric plexus, and ganglion impar) between January 1970 to May 2020. Data were extracted, summarized into tables, and qualitatively analyzed.


PRF and CRF both show promise in relieving SMP conditions, such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), pain in the perineal region, headache and facial pain, and oncologic and non-oncologic abdominal pain, in addition to other types of pain, with minimal complications. Furthermore, in most comparative studies, outcomes using RF treatments exceeded other interventional techniques, such as anesthetic block and chemical neurolysis.


RF treatments can be effective in carefully selected patients who are refractory to conservative management. However, further randomized controlled studies are needed prior to implementing it into common practice.
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