What is radiofrequency ablation?
A radiofrequency ablation, also called rhizotomy, is a procedure that destroys the nerve fibers that carry pain signals to the brain. This is effective in providing lasting relief for people with chronic pain especially in the neck, lower back, and arthritic joints. If you suffer from pain and you’ve experienced good relief with other pain management treatments like a nerve block injection, you may be a candidate for a radiofrequency ablation.
The goal of radiofrequency ablation is to provide long term relief of joint mediated pain than regular steroid injections can provide. Radiofrequency waves ablate, or "burn," the nerve that is causing the pain, essentially eliminating the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
The benefits of radiofrequency ablation include:
- avoiding surgery
- immediate pain relief
- little to no recovery time
- decreased need for pain medication
- improved function
- a quicker return to work and other activities
What happens during a radiofrequency ablation procedure?
This is usually the procedure for a radiofrequency ablation treatment:
- The patient lies on an x-ray table and a local anesthetic is used to numb the treatment area.
- With the use of fluoroscope, the doctor directs a thin hollow needle into the region responsible for the pain.
- Once the needle is in place, a numbing medication will be felt by the patient. Then a radiofrequency current is passed through the hollow needle to create a small and precise burn. The current destroys the portion of the nerve that transmits pain and disrupts the pain-producing signal.
- The patient will be monitored by their pain management doctor for a short time before leaving the clinic or the hospital.