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FAQs on Radiofrequency Ablation in Phoenix, Arizona

pain-procedure

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure where electric current is used to heat a small region of nerve tissue, which stops the transmission of pain signals. This provides lasting pain relief for people with chronic daily pain.

What conditions are treated using radiofrequency ablation?

Most people who are candidates for radiofrequency ablation have had pain relief with other procedures, such as facet joint injection, nerve blocks, and epidural steroid injections. Radiofrequency ablation will provide pain relief that lasts much longer. Conditions commonly treated using radiofrequency ablation include:backpain-copy

 

  • Spondylosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spinal arthritis
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Peripheral nerve entrapment

 

How do I prepare for the radiofrequency ablation procedure?

Before the injection, the doctor will meet with you to discuss your condition and medications. Because blood thinning agents can increase bleeding during the procedure, you must hold these drugs for several days before the procedure. Arrange to have transportation to and from the facility, as driving is not allowed. Once you agree for radiofrequency ablation, the doctor will have you sign a consent form, after reviewing risks and benefits.

How is radiofrequency ablation done?

First, a nurse will administer an intravenous medication to help you relax. Then, you lie on your stomach on the procedure table. The doctor cleans the skin with an antiseptic, and the tissues are numbed with a local anesthetic. Using real-time x-ray the doctor inserts a microelectrode through the needle, which emits the radiofrequency energy. After the nerve tissue is treated with the current, the probe is removed, and a bandage is applied to the site.

Is radiofrequency ablation effective?

The pain relief achieved with radiofrequency ablation lasts from 6-12 months, but for some people, it will last for years. Most patients report immediate relief, but improve gradually over 2-3 weeks.

lumbar-radiofrequency-ablation

What can I expect immediately after the radiofrequency procedure?

After the procedure, a nurse will monitor you in recovery area for 30-45 minutes. After you awaken from sedation, expect to be a little drowsy and lethargic. Soreness and mild discomfort at the injection site is expected. Arrange to have someone drive you home, but you can return to usual activities the next day.

Does the procedure hurt?

The radiofrequency procedure is no more painful than any other injection technique. Most patients report feeling soreness at the injection site, and maybe some pressure during the injection. Pain relief is often immediate for some, but can take a few weeks for others.

Are there different kinds of radiofrequency ablation procedure?

With radiofrequency thermo-coagulation, the electrode is heated to around 50-80°C, and the temperature is maintained for several minutes. When electro-thermal heat is generated, the pain fibers are destroyed. The technique of choice depends on the nerves being targeted, as well as the surgeon’s choice.

What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?

In a recent research study, 86% of patients treated with radiofrequency nerve ablation had pain relief. In this clinical report, none of the study participants had bleeding, infection, hematoma formation, or numbness of the site after the procedure. The main benefits include few risks, rare complications, no hospital stay, and significant pain relief. Another large study found radiofrequency ablation had a 93% efficacy rate.

Resources

Boswell MV, Colson JD, Sehgal N, et al. (2007). A systematic review of therapeutic facet joint interventions in chronic spinal pain. Pain Physician, 10(1), 229-253.

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