Pain Management in Colorado
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a therapeutic treatment option that involves
the use of radio waves to create electric current. The procedure is also
called neurolysis because it destroys nerve roots. Heat is applied to
nerve tissue to destroy the nerves, which results in a semi-permanent
disturbance of pain signal transmission from the spinal cord to the brain.
What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?
Many clinical studies have shown that radiofrequency ablation leads to
reduction in spinal back pain compared to conventional treatment measures.
This is due to the disruption of nerve function. The reports have suggested
that pain reduction can be sustained for up to 12 months. Other benefits
include being able to have the procedure done outpatient and the ability
to repeat the procedure as necessary.
What conditions are treated using RFA neurolysis?
Pulsed radiofrequency and continuous radiofrequency are the two types of
RF ablation. These methods have proven effective for disrupting pain signal
transmission from specific nerves. Conditions treated with this procedure include:
- Facet joint arthritis
- Lower back pain
- Lumbar radiculopathy
- Chronic cervical pain
- Cervical radiculopathy
How is radiofrequency ablation done?
Radiofrequency ablation is performed in a medical facility as an outpatient
procedure. Once you arrive, a nurse has you change into a gown and places
an intravenous catheter in your arm. You are positioned face-down on the
table, and a sedative is given through the IV line. The back/neck region
is cleaned with an antiseptic, and the doctor numbs the skin and deeper
tissues with an anesthetic (bupivacaine or lidocaine).
The procedure needle is guided into the facet joint, or positioned near
the nerve root, using real-time x-ray (fluoroscopy). The heat is applied
to the nerves, and the current produces a tingling sensation. An anesthetic
and/or corticosteroid may be injected to help reduce post-procedure inflammation
and pain. The doctor may ask you about what you are feeling during the
procedure. After the needle is removed, a bandage is applied.
What can I expect after RFA?
After the procedure, you are moved to the recovery area where a nurse monitors
your condition for 1-2 hours. As you wake from sedation, you will feel
dizzy, groggy, and have a dry mouth. Expect some mild discomfort over
the injection sites. We recommend that you rest for 2-3 days. It can take
for up to one month for the targeted nerves to lose function.
What are the restrictions after the RFA procedure?
After radiofrequency ablation, you will have to follow some restrictions.
- Driving or operating heavy machinery should be avoided for 24 hours afterwards.
- You cannot bathe for 24-48 hours, and must take showers for a week.
- Vigorous activity must be avoided for 3-6 days.
- Do not soak in a tub or swim for 48 hours.
- Do not remove the bandages for a few days, and make sure the injection
site does not get wet.
Does radiofrequency ablation work?
According to many clinical studies, radiofrequency ablation and neurolysis
is a safe, effective procedure for offering long-term pain relief. In
a recent study, found that all patients reported significant pain reduction
at the 1-, 3-, 6-, 9-, and 12-month follow-up. The efficacy rate was found
to be 85%, and two patients had pain relief that lasted 3 years after
the initial RFA procedure.