One of the many tools we use at NJ Pain Care Specialists to solve pain issues is Radiofrequency ablation, also known as Radiofrequency rhizotomy. This is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat cervical and lumbar (neck and lower back) pain that results from arthritis affecting facet joints. When facet joints become inflamed, their nerves can transmit severe pain. Radiofrequency reduces or eliminates the pain of by disrupting the medial branch nerves that carry the pain signals to the brain.
You are a candidate for Radiofrequency ablation only after the your facet joints have been clearly identified as a significant source of pain, and other treatment methods have not provided the desired pain relief.
The 30-90 minute procedure is performed by one of our Board Certified and Fellowship Trained physicians with extensive training in performing Radiofrequency ablations. Here’s a brief description of how it’s done:
- After being made comfortable on the procedure table, you might be sedated with relaxation medicine delivered through an IV line
- Once the area that requires treatment is sterilized, a local anesthetic is applied to numb the tissue
- A real-time fluoroscope x-ray device is used to carefully guide a special Radiofrequency needle alongside the irritated medial branch nerve
- An electrode inserted through the needle passes along a mild electrical current to confirm that it is next to the target nerve and a safe distance from other nerves
- The physician uses the electrode to cauterize the nerve, which disrupts its ability to communicate with the brain and blocks the pain signals
- The process may be repeated for additional nerves
The entire Radiofrequency procedure usually takes 30 to 90 minutes. You’ll return home the same day and can relieve any soreness around the procedure site with ice packs and an analgesic.
It’s best to take it slow for several days before returning to normal activities, based on how you’re feeling. Realize that you’ll be living without restricted movement for the first time in months or even years, so we may recommend a physical therapy regimen to increase your strength and stamina.
The maximum pain relief benefit following Radiofrequency ablation may take about a month, but many patients report pain relief sooner. Be aware that the nerves will eventually regenerate, and your pain may or may not come back. If it does, a second procedure can be performed with similar results.