Radiofrequency nerve ablation is the term used when radio waves are generated and used to produce heat. By generating heat around a nerve, the nerves ability to transmit pain is destroyed, thus ablating the nerve. Radiofrequency ablation is used to destroy the nerves that supply the facet joints in the spine. These joints are the small posterior joints on either side of the spine. These joints can be one source of back pain.
Prior to consideration of a radiofrequency nerve ablation procedure, the source of your pain needs to be determined by using diagnostic blocks on the various structures in the spine. Once it is established that the facet joints are causing your back pain, you may be a candidate for the actual procedure. The nerve ablation will effectively destroy the nerve fibers around the joint, which transit the pain sensation from the facet joint.
Which Conditions Are Treated With Radiofrequency Ablation?
RFA can be used to help patients with chronic (long-lasting) low-back and neck pain and pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis.
How Long Does Pain Relief From Radiofrequency Ablation Last?
The degree of pain relief varies, depending on the cause and location of the pain. Pain relief from RFA can last from six to 12 months and in some cases, relief can last for years. More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief.
Is Radiofrequency Ablation Safe?
RFA has proven to be a safe and effective way to treat some forms of pain. It also is generally well-tolerated, with very few associated complications. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the insertion site. Dr. De La Torre can advise you about your particular risk.
What Are the Side Effects of Radiofrequency Ablation?
The main side effect of RFA is some discomfort, including swelling and bruising, at the site of the treatment, but this generally goes away after a few days.
Who Should Not Get Radiofrequency Ablation?
As with any medical procedure, RFA is not appropriate for everyone. For example, radiofrequency ablation is not recommended in people who have active infections or bleeding problems. Dr. De La Torre can tell you if you should not have RFA.
How Do I Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation?
To prepare for radiofrequency ablation treatment, you should take a few precautions, including:
Do not eat within six hours of your appointment. You may have clear liquids until two hours before the procedure.
If you have diabetes and use insulin, you must adjust the dosage of insulin the day of the procedure. Your primary care doctor will help you with this adjustment. Bring your diabetes medication with you so you can take it after the procedure.
Continue to take all other medications with a small sip of water. Bring all medication with you so you can take it after the procedure. Please note: Do not discontinue any medication without first consulting with your primary or referring doctor.
You will need to bring someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
What Happens During Radiofrequency Ablation?
You will meet with a doctor for an evaluation. If a radiofrequency ablation is recommended, a doctor will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects.