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Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a procedure that uses a specialized device to disrupt nerve conduction. This pain relief technique can be used by those with back pain, neck pain, muscle pain and multiple other pain syndromes.

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There are two types of RFA. One uses heat which we usually use for medial branches and the other one which uses pulse used for dorsal root ganglia. A probe is inserted through a needle and controlled delivery of heat or pulse is placed along a painful nerve. RFA causes nerve destruction through heat. Pulsed-RFA does not cause nerve destruction, but instead is used to stun painful nerves.

What is the procedure and how is it performed?

Before this procedure is undertaken, the nerves will have already been proven to be painful by a diagnostic form of spinal injection called medial branch block or a selective root block. You should have at least 50% of relief from these procedures even just for few hours.

At MSPC, all procedures are performed in a state approved and Medicare certified ambulatory surgicenter with the most modern and sophisticated equipment to ensure safety and accuracy of needle placement during interventions.

After the numbing the skin, another needle is placed through the numb tissue and the entire procedure is performed using fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance. When the needle is in the correct location, an electrode is introduced into the center of the needle. Stimulation is initiated first with sensory stimulation and then with motor stimulation. When the correct needle position is verified, local anesthetic and sometimes a steroid medication are injected.

How long does this procedure take?

The total appointment time takes approximately 30 minutes, including preparation, treatment and recovery time.

What should I expect after the RFA?

After a brief recovery period, you are able to go home after the procedure. You may have some discomfort when the local anesthetic wears off. On the day after the procedure, you may cautiously return to regular activities. The neck or back will usually be sore during the next one to four days. This pain is usually caused by muscle spasms and irritability while the targeted nerves are dying from the heat lesion over the next 7-14 days. Full pain relief will typically not be experienced until about three to six weeks after the procedure when the nerves have completely died. 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.

How many treatments do I need and how frequently may I have this?

The nerves will eventually grow back (regenerate), but the patient’s pain may or may not recur. If the pain does recur, a second procedure can be performed, and similar results will usually be achieved. Some patients will not have a recurrence of pain.