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Radiofrequency Nerve Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure that uses an electric current to disrupt the nerve that is responsible for transmitting pain from the affected joint. It is normally used to relieve chronic pain arising from a facet joint injury. These are the joints located in your spine that make it possible for you to bend and twist your back.

Who can benefit 

The radio frequency ablation technique (RFA) is usually recommended if patients had prior successful medial branch nerve procedure. 

What to expect

After your pain specialist numbs your skin using a local anesthetic, he inserts a thin needle near the affected facet joint using the fluoroscopy machine as a guide. A probe connected to an RFA machine is inserted. If muscle twitching and pain is provoked, it indicates that the correct nerve has been targeted. Once the location of the needle is confirmed, the nerve is numbed and radiofrequency energy is used to disrupt the medial branch nerve.

After the procedure

The patient is usually monitored for 30 minutes after the procedure, and our staff provides discharge instructions when the patient is ready to go home. Our staff will ask the patient to track his or her pain after the procedure. Muscle or nerve irritation may cause one to feel sore for one to four hours after the procedure. Maximum pain relief normally comes in two to three weeks. Nerves regenerate after an RFA and pain may return. The time it takes varies from person to person and another RFA might be needed. RFA can be repeated after six months.

Treatment effectiveness 

Pain relief from RFA can last from 6 to 12 months, and in some cases relief can last for years. More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief. 

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