Radio Frequency Ablation Treatment
Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA), has been shown to be one of the most effective and safest procedures in the reduction of back pain, neck pain, muscle pain, and a number of other pain syndromes. Radio Frequency Ablation uses low-energy, high-frequency alternating currents which cause intense oscillation of ions that coagulate, or burn, the medial branch nerves and interrupt the pain signals being sent to the brain. Although RFAs have been performed for over 25 years, advances in technology and technique have shown a significant increase in support from the medical community over the last several years. It is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that can produce significant pain relief in many patients.
Facet joints, which connect one vertebra to another, are innervated by the medial branch nerve which gives sensation to the joint. The facet joints can become a great source of pain if damage occurs or if the spine becomes arthritic. Medial branch radio-frequency ablation reduces pain by interrupting pain signals sent from distressed facet joints.
Utah Radio Frequency Ablation Treatments
Radio Frequency Ablation is done as an outpatient procedure and does not involve a hospital stay. It is done with a local anesthetic and occasionally light sedation to help decrease procedure-related anxiety. Before the procedure begins, the physician will clean the skin over and around the injection site and then numb the skin by injecting local anesthetic. A needle, which will be used as a sleeve for an electrode, is then inserted into the numbed tissue using fluoroscopic guidance. In order to ensure that the needle is correctly placed, stimulation is first initiated with sensory stimulation, then with motor stimulation. After correct placement is determined, local anesthetic and often steroid medication are injected. With thermo-coagulation, the electrode will then be placed through the needle and heated to 80 degrees Celsius. This generates electro-thermal heat, enabling the destruction of pain fibers. Although similar to thermo-coagulation, pulsed radio frequency uses a lower level of heat and does not destroy nerve tissue, but stuns it. The patient can go home after a short recovery time following the procedure. The site may be painful for a few days after the procedure, but substantial pain relief should follow.
Benefits and Risks
As technology and technique continually improve, we see fewer risks and more benefits using Radio Frequency Ablation. The procedure has consistently helped patients find pain relief with minimal side effects. Many patients reduce or even stop using pain medication. Like every medical procedure, there are risks and potential complications. In rare incidents, recovering patients have developed bleeding, hematoma, infection, or numbness as complications to their therapy. Because nerves regenerate over time, the procedure will probably need to be repeated months or years down the road in order to maintain relief.
After a Radio Frequency Ablation procedure, the patient must stay at the doctor's office for a short recovery time before being discharged for home recovery. The vast majority will have an easy time recovering and will be back to their regular schedule a few days later. If someone responds well to RFA and finds significant relief, they may be a candidate for another treatment on the opposite side or different level to reduce pain even further.
Pain Education Center
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