Radiofrequency (RF) nerve ablation, a.k.a. rhizotomy, is a minimally invasive procedure used by specialists to treat symptoms arising from injured or degenerating facet joints in the spine. Treatment involves targeting the nerves that sense pain signals from the facet joints. T Targeting nerves in this way “stuns” the nerve and interrupts the ability of the nerves to communicate signals of pain from the spine to the brain. Over years, the nerve does grow back and the procedure may be repeated in order to manage the pain.
Who are Good Candidates for Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation?
Patients who have responded well to facet joint injections or medial branch blocks are ideal candidates for medial branch radiofrequency ablations and should receive long-term pain relief with the rhizotomy procedure.
- Radiofrequency rhizotomy is performed as an outpatient procedure, requiring no hospital stay.
- The Rhizotomy procedure is most typically performed under “Twilight Sedation”. As stated previously, with this type of sedation patients are able to wake up minutes after the procedure is over. For example, this type of sedation is similar to the sedation you would receive during a colonoscopy.
- Once the area that will be treated is cleaned and prepped in a sterile fashion, a thin needle is guided down to where the facet joint nerve lies.
- To ensure accurate location, the nerve is tested. This causes the affected muscle to contract rhythmically and inform the physician whether or not he or she is in the right location.
- Next, an anesthetic (numbing) medication is injected into the nerve so discomfort is not experienced during the rhizotomy portion of the procedure
- Once the numbing medicine has taken effect, the needle tip is activated and the nerve is lesioned.
- The process is repeated at several different levels.
Once the procedure is done, many patients feel a bruise-like feeling for a couple days. The desired pain relief from the nerve ablation may take about 5-7 days to begin and up to 4 weeks to experience the full pain relief. Post-treatment care is often coupled with physical therapy to maximize the benefits of radiofrequency nerve ablation.
*Individual Result May Vary*