Radiofrequency neurotomy, also called radiofrequency ablation, is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radio waves to reduce pain in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine, as well as the foot and shoulder. The radio waves generate heat, which is then used to treat damaged nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain. This procedure may be recommended for patients who've experienced relief from diagnostic injections called nerve blocks. This semi-permanent procedure is performed on an outpatient basis, allowing patients to return home the same day.
What to Expect
Radiofrequency neurotomy begins with the patient lying face down on an operating table. A TriState Pain Institute physician then administers a sedative as well as a local anesthetic to relax the patient and numb the affected area. Using an x-ray guidance device, called a fluoroscope, the physician inserts the radiofrequency needle alongside damaged nerves. A special generator will be used to produce radio waves that heat the tip of the radiofrequency needle. A heat lesion is then created on the nerve, which subsequently impairs its ability to send pain signals to the brain. After the targeted nerves have been treated, the radiofrequency needle will be removed and the operation site will be bandaged.
Following radiofrequency neurotomy, the patient will be sent to a separate room to recover. Soreness, mild bruising, and swelling may be present near or around the injection site. These symptoms typically dissipate after a few days. Pain relief usually lasts anywhere from six to nine months, but there are instances where symptom relief lasts up to two years.