For patients with back and neck pain, radiofrequency ablation is a revolutionary procedure. This procedure usually is considered when other treatments have not been proven effective for chronic pain.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that uses a special type of needle emitting radio waves to painful nerves. This destroys the nerve’s ability to function. Other names for radiofrequency ablation is rhizotomy, radiofrequency neurotomy, and neurotomy.
What are the types of radiofrequency ablation?
The three main types of radiofrequency ablation (RFA) include:
What conditions are treated using radiofrequency ablation?
Conditions treated using RFA include:
What can I expect with the consultation?
The consultation is required before the procedure. During this time, the doctor will decide if your pain is caused from facet (spinal) joint pain. The small nerves targeted with RFA are the medial branch of the spinal region. With RFA, the pain source is identified using a diagnostic block, which involves use of a local anesthetic to a suspicious area. If the diagnostic treatment works, the doctor will then schedule you for a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
How many treatments are needed?
One radiofrequency ablation treatment may work for most people, but for others, it takes more than one treatment. An ablation typically last for 8-24 months.
Is radiofrequency therapy right for me?
Radiofrequency therapy is a specific procedure that works by using mild electrical current to prevent nerves from sending pain signals. The doctor will take x-rays and other diagnostic scans first to assure that you have a condition that is treatable with the procedure.
What are the advantages of the radiofrequency ablation procedure?
RFA has many advantages. This procedure offers:
How is the procedure done?
Before the RFA procedure, a nurse will place an IV catheter in your arm to administer pain medicines. After this, he will clean the back using an antiseptic solution and numb the skin and deeper tissues with an anesthetic. The procedure needle is inserted using fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray), and the electrical current is applied. After the needle is removed, the site is secured with a bandage.
Does radiofrequency ablation work?
There are many studies regarding radiofrequency ablation, which is used to treat facet joint syndrome and back pain. In a large stud where RFA was compared to sham treatment, patients reported more than 50% reduction in pain. Another study found that patients had significant pain relief and improved functional status for up to 12 months after RFA. Further studies for occipital neuralgia and headaches show that radiofrequency ablation is useful for pain relief at the 3-month follow-up.
Choi WJ, Hwang SJ, Song JG, et al. Radiofrequency treatment relieves chronic knee osteoarthritis pain: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Pain. 2011; 152: 481-7.
Tekin I, Mirzai H, Ok G, et al.: A comparison of conventional and pulsed radiofrequency denervation in the treatment of chronic facet joint pain. Clin J Pain. 2007; 23 (6):524-529.
van Kleef M, Barendse GA, Kessels A, et al.: Randomized trial of radiofrequency lumbar facet denervation for chronic low back pain. Spine. 1999; 24:1937-1942.