Systematic Review of Radiofrequency Ablation and Pulsed Radiofrequency for Management of Cervicogenic Headaches

  • Ravi K. Grandhi
  • Alan David Kaye
  • Alaa Abd-Elsayed
Other Pain (A Kaye and N Vadivelu, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Other Pain


Purpose of Review

Cervicogenic headache (CHA) is a secondary headache which has a source in the upper cervical spine. Many traditional analgesic choices lack good efficacy in managing the associated pain. As a result, in management of CHA, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) or pulse radiofrequency (PRF) has been tried with success. Our study investigated the use of RFA and PRF for the management of CHA.

Recent Findings

In the present investigation, a review of the literature was conducted using PubMed (1966 to February 2017). The quality assessment was determined using The Cochrane Risk of Bias. After initial search and consultation with experts, 34 articles were identified for initial review and 10 articles met inclusion for review. Criteria for inclusion were primarily based on identification of articles discussing cervicogenic headaches which were previously treatment resistant and occurred without any other pathology of the craniofacial region or inciting event such as trauma.


This systematic review demonstrated that RFA and PRFA provide very limited benefit in the management of CHA. At present, there is no high-quality RCT and/or strong non-RCTs to support the use of these techniques, despite numerous case reports which have demonstrated benefit. This review is one of the first to provide a comprehensive overview of the use of RFA and PRF in the management of CHA.


Chronic pain Cervicogenic headache Radiofrequency ablation Pulsed radiofrequency ablation 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Ravi K. Grandhi and Alaa Abd-Elsayed declare that they have no conflict of interest. Alan D. Kaye is a speaker for Depomed, Inc. and Merck, Inc.

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.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ravi K. Grandhi
    • 1
  • Alan David Kaye
    • 2
  • Alaa Abd-Elsayed
    • 3
  1. 1.AnesthesiologyMaimonides Medical CenterBrooklynUSA
  2. 2.Anesthesiology DepartmentLouisiana State University School of MedicineNew OrleansUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public HealthMadisonUSA

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