RADIOFREQUENCY DENERVATION (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation is a relatively painless treatment that uses heat produced by radio waves to disrupt and prevent pain-related nerve signals from reaching the brain. The results are not permanent, but pain relief is typically much longer than expected with anesthetic nerve blocks, from nine months to two years.
The treatment uses radiofrequency waves to block nerves around the facet joints in your back or neck that are causing pain.
Radiofrequency facet joint denervation is a safe and effective day case procedure for the treatment of back or neck pain arising from the lumbar, thoracic or cervical facet joints. It is also known as radiofrequency ablation, neurotomy, lesioning or rhizolysis.
The treatment uses radiofrequency waves to block nerves around the facet joints in your back or neck that are causing pain. When the procedure is done on nerve tissue, it can provide relief from pain that hasn’t been helped by other approaches. It has been used very successfully to treat people who have heart rhythm problems. More recently, it has been used to destroy tumors and treat pain.
Radiofrequency ablation gives longer-term pain relieve than nerve blocks or other types of injections. Many types of chronic pain respond well to radiofrequency ablation including pain from:
- Injuries such as whiplash
- Neuropathic pain conditions like complex regional pain syndrome or peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes
- Prior spine surgeries
- Spinal arthritis (spondylosis)
The doctor will use X-rays to guide twin, insulated needles to the proper place next to the nerve. A tiny electrode is placed inside the needle. A small radiofrequency current is directed to the medial branch nerve of the joint capsule for 60 to 90 seconds. The radiofrequency waves make heat. This destroys the nerve tissue that is sending the pain signals to the brain. The doctor heats the needle to damage part of the nerve, preventing it from sending pain signals.
It may reduce your pain for between six months and two years. But in some people, it can help for longer.