Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure used to disrupt the nerve’s ability to send pain signals, thus eliminating back or spine pain. This procedure is used to treat patients who are experiencing chronic pain in their lower back or neck. Pain relief from radiofrequency ablation usually lasts from six months to a year, and at times longer.

EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region is pleased to offer radiofrequency ablation performed in our office. This minimally invasive procedure is performed using mild sedation and under local anesthesia. During the procedure, our highly trained spine experts use fluoroscopy, which is a live x-ray, for guidance. This allows the surgeon to expertly target and place the radiofrequency needle.

What Conditions are Treated With Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat pain associated with degeneration of joints, usually caused by arthritis. If you are suffering from degenerative disc disease, occipital neuralgia, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), or are experiencing abnormal pain, talk to your spine expert about radiofrequency ablation.

What Can I Expect During Radiofrequency Ablation?

This 30 to 90 minute procedure is minimally invasive and allows you to return home following completion. We require a friend or family member to accompany you to the procedure, since driving is not recommended.

During the radiofrequency ablation, you will lie on a procedure table while your surgeon uses the fluoroscopy machine to direct the radiofrequency needle alongside the medial and/or lateral branch nerves. In order to pinpoint the exact location of the damaged nerve, your surgeon may send a small electrical current through the needle. This electrical current may briefly recreate your symptoms, however it will indicate if the needle is in the proper position next to the target nerve, as well as a safe distance away from surrounding nerves.

Once the target nerve has been located, it will be numbed in order to limit pain. Once the nerve is numbed, radiofrequency waves will heat the tip of the needle, creating a heat lesion on the nerve. You surgeon will then repeat this process to treat other problem nerves as necessary.

How Will I Recover From Radiofrequency Ablation?

Following the procedure, you are free to return home the same day. It is normal to be sore around the treated area for up to four days. Additionally, while the target nerves are dying, you may experience muscle spasms or muscle irritability. Within one to two weeks, the target nerves should be dead and any pain or discomfort should be eliminated.

It is recommended to rest for several days following the radiofrequency ablation procedure. Although you may return to normal activities the following day, be cautious and do not over exert yourself.

At times, patients may experience side effects from the procedure, such as a superficial burning pain that feels similar to sunburn. This side effect can last anywhere from one to two weeks. Other side effects include numbness of the skin around the treatment area. If you experience any side effects, contact your spine surgeon.

Who Performs Radiofrequency Ablation?

When you choose to work with EmergeOrtho: Foothills Region, our expert spine physicians will diagnose, treat, and work to eliminate your pain. During radiofrequency ablation, you can rest easy knowing you are in the hands of a skilled surgeon. Contact us today to learn more.