What is Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation (neurotomy) is a procedure to help relieve pain that originates from the facet joints or your neck or back. Each bone in your spine is connected by two facet joints on each side. The facet joints allow your spine to bend and rotate. Sometimes these joints can deteriorate and become inflamed. This inflammation can irritate the facet nerves and surrounding tissues, causing pain. During the radiofrequency procedure, the facet nerves are destroyed using extreme heat. This breaks up the pain signal from these nerves.
Two diagnostic work-up injections are required prior to performing the radiofrequency to help determine if this procedure is appropriate for you. These injections will need to be completed on separate days.
What can I expect during the procedure?
The procedure is done by a physician under fluroscopy (x-ray). You will be receiving sedation through an IV prior to the procedure. You will be brought into the procedure room and lay on your stomach on a special table. Your skin will be cleaned at the injection sites and a local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. The fluoroscope (x-ray machine) will be used to help visualize the needle as it is guided to the appropriate site for the procedure. An anesthetic is injected by the nerve to numb it. At this time, heat will be applied to the nerve to break up the nerve signal.
What should I expect after the procedure?
We recommend that you take it easy for the remainder of the day. You may resume normal activities the next day. You may experience tenderness or aggravated symptoms for several days after the procedure. You may rest and use ice packs to help with this pain. Some patients may require pain medication for 2 to 3 days after the procedure to help with post-procedure pain. Your provider will discuss this with you. It may take up to 4-6 weeks to notice benefit from the procedure. The effects of this procedure are usually not permanent. You may get pain relief for 1 to 2 years, or less. If you have received at least 6 months of pain relief, the procedure can be repeated if appropriate.