Radiofrequency ablation (or RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area.
You should allow approximately 1 to 2 hours for the procedure. You will need to arrange a driver to take you home after the procedure
Radiofrequency ablation is used to destroy the median nerves that supply the facet joints in the spine. There are two for each facet joint. These joints are the small posterior joints on either side of the spine. These joints can be one source of back pain.
Pain management using radio frequency involves three days of evaluation. Two separate trials with local anesthetic. If positive relief of pain is achieved then 3rd day the RF ablation for long term relief is performed.1st Day Trial One: Sensorcaine:
The patient will come in and the radiologist will inject sensorcaine into the indicated area. The patient will relax in our recovery room for 20-30 minutes. The patients pain relief on a scale of 1 to 10 is documented. The patients then scheduled for a second injection of lidocaine on a separate day. The patient logs thee level of relief/duration.
2nd Day Trial Two: Lidocaine:
The radiologist injects the patient with lidocaine in the area of concern. The patient rests for 20-30 minutes in our recovery room and the degree of pain relief is documented. If the patient receives significant relief from both the injections they are a candidate for radio frequency ablation with 85% likelihood for success. If relief with one or the other trial there is a 50% likelihood for success.
The patient is placed in a recovery room with continuous monitoring for a short period of time. The patients back or neck may remain painful for up to 10-14 days after the procedure and is generally due to residual effects of the ablated nerve. After this period the patient will begin to feel pain relief.
Once the nerves which carry pain sensation from the painful joint are destroyed you should be free of the back pain you are experiencing. Pain relief may last over a period of approximately 9 months to 2 years or more. Time, physical therapy and increased muscle strength around this joint may make this joint less painful over the following 6 months so that if or when the nerves do regenerate you will not experience the same intensity of pain as prior to the procedure. If you have a recurrence of pain this procedure can be repeated.
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