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The Benefits of Radiofrequency Neuroablation

02 Nov

Nerves play an important part when it comes to pain. They’re responsible for transmitting pain signals from the painful areas of your body to the central nervous system (i.e. the spinal cord and brain). It makes sense, then, that nerves can also play an important part when it comes to treating that pain. That’s where radiofrequency neuroablation comes in.

Background and Uses

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) – also called radiofrequency rhizotomy and radiofrequency neurotomy – was first used to treat back pain in 1975 by CN Shealy.[1]  In a paper regarding the topic the following year, Shealy concluded that in properly selected patients, 82% experienced partial to total pain relief with no neurologic complications.[2]

 RFA is used to treat pain stemming from the facet joints, both in the spine (lumbar and thoracic) and neck (cervical). Facet joints are where each vertebra connects with the vertebrae above and below it. These joints both stabilize the spine and limit excessive motion.[3]Normal wear and tear, injury and disc degeneration can all cause issues with the joints, resulting in back or neck pain. In a systematic review in the journal Pain Research and Management, five out of six studies found that in cases of chronic back pain resulting from such facet issues, performing RFA resulted in statistically significant reductions in pain.[1]

The procedure is ideal for pain that hasn’t responded to conservative therapies, such as physical therapy or medication. Before the procedure, physicians will typically perform a diagnostic nerve block to ensure that the patient is a good candidate for the procedure.

How it Works

During an RFA procedure, heat from an electrode is used to cauterize one or more nerves, thus disrupting pain signals to the brain.

To begin, after the patient has received medicine to help them relax and the area around the injection site has been numbed, the physician inserts a small tube called a cannula into the spinal area and guides it to the right nerve with the help of an X-ray device. An electrode is inserted through the cannula and its position is tested with a small jolt before the nerve is heated.[3]

To heat the nerve, a high frequency electrical current is administered, which causes molecule movement and produces thermal energy.[1] This, in turn, creases a small lesion within the nerve, disrupting its ability to transmit pain signals. The doctor may treat several nerves, if necessary.

Following the Treatment

After an RFA procedure, pain relief may not be immediate. The injection site will be sore and back or neck pain may still persist, but, if the correct nerves were treated, the pain will gradually decrease over several weeks.

Partial or total pain relief from radiofrequency can last for several months. Nerves do grow back, however, so the procedure may need to be repeated. But, unlike invasive surgeries or long-term medication usage, there are few serious side effects to the procedure, allowing you to get back to a better quality of life.

More Information

To learn more about radiofrequency neuroablation, or to schedule an appointment with a pain specialist to discuss treatment options, click here.

Get moving. Call (888) 901-PAIN (7246) or click to schedule a consultation now.

[1] Leggett, Laura E., Lesley Jj Soril, Diane L. Lorenzetti, Tom Noseworthy, Rodney Steadman, Simrandeep Tiwana, and Fiona Clement. "Radiofrequency Ablation for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials." Pain Research and Management 19, no. 5 (September/October 2014): 146-E153.

[2] Shealy, C. Norman. "Facet Denervation in the Management of Back and Sciatic Pain." Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, no. 115 (March/April 1976): 157-64.

[3] “ViewMedica Patient Engagement Videos.” Swarm Interactive 2016. Accessed May 5, 2016.

Last modified on Wednesday, 22 November 2017 08:19

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