What Is radiofrequency ablation?
First used in 1931 to treat a patient with trigeminal neuralgia, radiofrequency ablation is now frequently used to treat a myriad of chronic pain.
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure which helps patients with chronic pain to avoid surgeries and long recovery times.
It starts with a medial branch block which locates the precise nerve suffering from damage, so the pain signals can be interrupted.
What does the procedure look like?
Someone from your procedure team will clean and sterilize the area along the spine in which your procedure will be performed. Before they administer the local anesthesia, they will likely use a topical anesthetic to numb the area.
Once you are comfortable and numb, they will place another needle in your back. While your doctor moves the needle into the area for the radiofrequency ablation, he will be using fluoroscopic (X-Ray) guidance. A small microelectrode travels through the needle to sit near the damaged nerve tissue in question.
To make sure the correct nerve is targeted they will send a mild electrical current through the microelectrode. Once the microelectrode is in the proper place, a numbing agent will be applied to the nerve before a heat-generating electrical current is administered. If there is inflammation present your doctor may also inject some corticosteroids.
The entire procedure takes between 30 – 90 minutes.