During a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) procedure, the physician uses an electric current to heat up a small portion of nerve tissue to stop the transmission of pain signals. Patients with chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and arthritic joints could experience lasting pain relief from RFA.
RFA could deliver excellent results for patients who have benefited from steroid injections, epidural injections, or nerve block injections.
Conditions Treated by Radiofrequency Ablation
RFA may be a great treatment option for patients experiencing chronic pain from the following conditions
- Arthritis of the spine
- Facet joint inflammation
- Sacroiliac joint inflammation
- Neck, back, knee, and peripheral nerve pain
Who Could Benefit From Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation may be a good option for patients experiencing chronic pain that has not responded to other treatment, such as physical therapy and pain medication.`
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RF is not recommended for patients with allergies to local anesthetics, an active infection, or bleeding disorders.
How to Prepare for Radiofrequency Ablation
Patients should come to the clinic wearing comfortable clothes that are easy to remove and put on. They should remove jewelry or body piercings to prevent metal from interfering with RFA’s electric currents.
Patients should avoid eating for six hours before the procedure. However, patients are allowed to consume clear liquids up to two hours before their appointment. Patients will receive detailed instructions on what time they should stop and resume eating and drinking.
Before the procedure, patients will need to provide their physician with a list of all medications they are currently taking. Some medications that aren’t daily or essential may need to be paused until after the procedure.
On the day of the procedure, patients will need to:
Bring their photo ID, health insurance card, and any other necessary paperwork.
Make arrangements for someone to drive them home after the procedure. Patients will feel drowsy from the sedative medication administered during RFA.
What to Expect During The Procedure
- The patient will be given intravenous medication to help them relax.
- The patient will be instructed to lay on their stomach or back on an X-ray table.
- The doctor will apply a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area.
- The physician will use X-ray guidance to insert a thin needle into the treatment area.
- The physician will insert a microelectrode through the needle and ask the patient if they feel a tingling sensation. This will help the doctor determine the accuracy of the needle.
- The physician will send a small radiofrequency current through the electrode to heat the nerve tissue.
- The patient is free to go home once the procedure has been completed.
Risks of Radiofrequency Ablation
Temporary side effects of radiofrequency ablation include:
Weakness or numbness in the legs
Swelling and bruising at the incision site
Patients can resume their regular diet and medications immediately after the procedure, but should avoid driving or engaging in any rigorous activity for 24 hours.
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