Radiofrequency ablation (also called radiofrequency neurotomy or lesioning) is a long term treatment option used to minimize back pain from facet or sacroiliac joints. These joints can be impacted by trauma, arthritis, and other degenerative changes.
Radiofrequency ablation uses electrical current produced by a radio wave to create heat to destroy specific pain signal carrying nerve fibers. The procedure is performed in our procedure room under sedation and takes less than 30 minutes. Once the joints are identified by fluoroscopy (X ray), the probe is inserted and guided to alongside the nerve branches. A small amount of electrical current is carefully passed through the needle to assure that it is next to the target nerve. After verification of correct placement, a lesion is created using radio waves on the nerve to disrupt the nerve’s ability to send pain signals. Local anesthetic and a steroid is also injected into the area to minimize post-procedural inflammation and discomfort. It may take several weeks before the full effects are felt when the specific nerves have fully degenerated.
Prior to a radiofrequency ablation, your physician will recommend a nerve block to ensure that the pain is being transmitted by those nerves. As a general rule, if effective, the ablation will often provide relief lasting at least 9 to 14 months and sometimes longer. After this period of time, the nerve may regenerate and the pain may return requiring another ablation.