What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure to help relieve pain that originates from the facet joints of 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 ablation 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 ablation procedure 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?
You will receive sedation through an IV prior to the procedure. A nurse will bring you into the procedure room and lay you on your stomach on a special table. Our staff will clean your skin at the injection sites and apply a local anesthetic to numb your skin. An x-ray machine will help visualize the needle as the physician guides it to the appropriate site for the procedure. An anesthetic is injected by the nerve to numb it. Then, heat will be applied to the nerve to break up the nerve signal.
What should I expect after the procedure?
We suggest you take it easy for the remainder of the day. You may then resume normal activities the next day. You may experience tenderness or aggravated symptoms for several days after the procedure. 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.
Facet nerves grow back, and as a result, the effects of this procedure are usually not permanent. You may get pain relief for 1 to 2 years. If you receive at least 6 months of pain relief, you may repeat the procedure if appropriate.