Radiofrequency Ablation: Your Answer to Relieve Pain

Radiofrequency Ablation: Your Answer to Relieve Pain

Radiofrequency AblationRadiofrequency ablation, also known as radiofrequency lesioning, is a minimally-invasive procedure that uses a specialized radiofrequency needle to ablate, or destroy, targeted spinal nerve endings.   When this procedure is done on nerve tissue, it can provide relief from pain that has not been ameliorated by other approaches. The nerves are usually blocked for 6 to 9 months, although it may last as short as 3 months or in some cases, up to 18 months or longer.   It has been employed successfully to treat people who have heart rhythm problems.  Most recently, it has been used to destroy tumors and treat pain from car accidents and other traumatic events.

Radiofrequency ablation gives longer term pain relief than nerve blocks or other types of injections.  Many varieties of chronic pain respond well to radiofrequency ablation including pain from the following:

  •  Injuries such as whiplash,
  • Neuropathic pain conditions like Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or Peripheral Nerve Entrapment Syndromes,
  • Prior spine surgeries, and
  • Spinal arthritis (spondylosis).

What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation disrupts nerve conduction, specifically interrupting the conduction of pain signals.  In turn, this may quell pain, and other related symptoms.  Approximately 70 percent of patients will get a good block of the intended nerve.  This should help relieve that part of the pain that the blocked nerve controls.  Sometimes after a nerve is blocked, it becomes clear that there is pain from the other areas as well.

How is radiofrequency ablation actually performed?

This amazing procedure uses image-guided fluoroscopy–a type of medical imaging that displays a live X-ray image on a monitor–to ensure accurate placement of the radiofrequency needles.  During the procedure:

  1. Patients lie on their stomach when working on the facet joints, on the cervical or lumbar sympathetic nerves, and on spinal discs.  It is performed occasionally on the back when ablation is in particular cervical or neck areas.
  2. The skin is sterilized at the injection site.
  3. The patient is administered a local anesthetic to numb the injection area.
  4. The patient is properly positioned on the fluoroscopy X-ray table.
  5. The Innovative Pain and Wellness physician inserts the radiofrequency needle into the skin and guides it toward the targeted spinal nerve endings, using the fluoroscopic image for reference.
  6. Once the needle is positioned, a low voltage charge is administered to test for best placement.
  7. An anesthetic injection can be given to numb the area.
  8. Patients receive a higher voltage for the actual radiofrequency lesioning. The tissues surrounding the special electrically active needle tip are then heated when electric current is passed through it.  This effectively numbs the nerves semi-permanently.  Once complete, the needles are removed and a bandage is applied.  Patients should rest for about 24 hours following the procedure.  During that time, patients are advised not to drive a car or operate other machinery. Patients are also advised to apply ice packs for a week after the procedure or as needed.

Will the radiofrequency ablation hurt?

Layers of muscle and soft tissues protect nerves.  The procedure involves inserting an introducer needle or needles through skin and those layers of muscle and soft tissues, so there is a tiny bit of discomfort involved.  However, your physician will numb the skin and deeper tissues with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle before inserting the introducer needle or needles.

How long is the procedure?

Depending upon the areas to be treated, the procedure can take from twenty minutes to an hour to complete

Is radiofrequency ablation right for me?

Generally speaking, patients who have experienced significant decreases in discomfort and have had relief from chronic pain, find refreshing benefits in diminishing pain following radiofrequency ablation.

Here at Innovative Pain and Wellness, healing begins with a thorough medical history and physical exam.  All patients are carefully evaluated to identify the source of their pain.  Following the initial assessment, we work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that may include interventional pain procedures, medication therapy, physical therapy, massage, and other relieving technique options where available.  We are dedicated to developing a personal relationship with our entire team which ultimately leads to greater success and a better patient experience.  Consult one of our outstanding team to begin your journey to optimal health and an exceptionally vibrant quality of life!

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