Radiofrequency Ablation

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Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment that uses an electric current to heat up a small area of nerve tissue and block pain signals. The procedure can provide lasting relief for people experiencing chronic pain, especially in the lower back, neck, and arthritic joints.


Who is a Candidate For Radiofrequency Ablation?


Patients suffering from chronic pain who have not responded to other treatments, such as pain medication and physical therapy, may be good candidates for radiofrequency ablation.

Patients diagnosed with arthritis of the spine, sacroiliac joint inflammation, facet joint inflammation, and neck, back, knee, and peripheral nerve pain, may also benefit from radiofrequency ablation.

Man-with-chronic-low-back-pain-needing-radiofrequency-ablation
Digital-illustration-of-low-back-pain

Symptoms of these conditions include:

  • Persistent pain and stiffness in the lower back
  • Pain that worsens after long periods of sitting or standing, or getting out of a chair
  • Sharp or stabbing, or dull and achy pain
  • Pain in the buttock, hip, or thigh
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Pain when initiating motion

Radiofrequency ablation can be an effective treatment for patients who have experienced good results from steroid injections, epidural injections, or nerve block injections. Patients with other health conditions or illnesses who may not be good candidates for traditional open surgery often consider radiofrequency ablation.

The procedure is not recommended for patients with an active infection, allergies to local anesthetics, or bleeding issues.

Before The Procedure


Patients should avoid drinking liquids and eating within six hours before the procedure. Clear liquids are permissible up until two hours before the appointment. Patients will receive detailed instructions regarding diet leading up to treatment.


What to Expect During Radiofrequency Ablation


The patient will lay on their stomach or back on an X-ray table and receive intravenous medication to help them relax. Next, the doctor will numb the treatment area with a local anesthetic and insert a thin needle. Under X-ray guidance, the doctor will identify the correct injection site.

X-ray-room-used-to-perform-radiofrequency-ablation

A microelectrode will then be inserted through the needle and the doctor will ask the patient if they feel a tingling sensation. This will help the doctor identify the right treatment area.

Next, a small radiofrequency current will be sent through the electrode to heat the nerve tissue.

Once the procedure is finished, patients can go home.


What to Expect After Treatment


Results will vary depending on the cause and location of the pain, however, most patients experience some pain relief after the procedure. Results can last six to 12 months for some patients, and a few years for others.

Patients can resume their regular diet and medications immediately, but should avoid driving and engaging in rigorous activity for 24 hours after the procedure. It’s important to take it easy for the rest of the day. Patients can resume normal activities the following day.

Potential Risks and Side Effects


Radiofrequency ablation is a relatively safe procedure, with low risk of adverse effects. Serious complications, including infection and bleeding at the incision site, are uncommon.

Patients may experience the following temporary side effects:

  • Weakness or numbness in the legs
  • Swelling and bruising at the incision site

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