Effectively Disables Nerve Pain

Radiofrequency ablation has been used for many years to provide long-term relief for patients with predominantly neck, thoracic and low back pain of facet origin. Radiofrequency ablation applies heat to disable nerves.

What Causes the Need for Radiofrequency Ablation?

The facet joints are the joints in the spine that are the contact points between the vertebral bodies or bones of the spine. These joints can be injured in work-related incidents, motor vehicle accidents, everyday activities, or they can be affected by the natural aging process.  The pain from these joints can cause, for example, back pain that radiates down the back of the legs to the knees. The pain usually worsens with back extension, or bending backward to look up at the sky.

How is Radiofrequency Ablation Done?

Prior to radiofrequency ablation, a test injection or injections – known as a facet nerve or medial branch block – must be performed to isolate the nerves that supply the facet joints with local anesthesia:

  • The patient is brought into the procedure or operating room and, after very light sedation, needles are gently inserted into these small facet nerves, and local anesthetic – with or without a small amount of steroid – is injected. (These nerves are not involved in sensation or motor function in the arms or legs.)
  • Then, throughout the day, the patient keeps a diary of his or her pain. If there is a significant drop in pain – which is due to the temporary local anesthetic effect – the patient is considered to be a potential candidate for radiofrequency ablation. 

Radiofrequency ablation is performed much like the medial branch block, but there are some differences:

  • This procedure is done with very light sedation after applying generous local anesthesia to the neck, mid or low back.  The radiofrequency needles are inserted into the target areas and then there is a testing phase to make sure the needles are not near motor nerves and potentially sensory nerves. 
  • Once the doctor is satisfied with the needle placement on x-ray and by testing the nerves, the radiofrequency procedure is carried out. 
  • Deeper sedation is given to the patient before the radiofrequency ablation. The radiofrequency ablation portion of the procedure usually takes 6-8 minutes. The entire procedure takes usually 20-30 minutes.

What Happens Afterward?

The patient goes home. For a small percentage of patients, the procedure might actually aggravate their pain for several weeks. This is not a common occurrence. Also, in the area where the procedure was performed, numbness might be experienced, and it could last for several weeks or longer. 

How Long Does Pain Relief Last?

The radiofrequency ablation can help relieve pain anywhere from 3-18 months.

Please feel free to contact us at New Jersey Pain Care Specialists to discuss any questions or concerns you may have about your own situation. Dr. Bram and staff will give you the time and attention to properly understand and accurately diagnose your condition, and to recommend the most advanced, non-invasive, effective and efficient treatment to eliminate or relieve your pain.