Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a chronic pain management procedure available at the Novus Spine & Pain Center in Lakeland, Florida. The procedure uses heat generated by radio waves to destroy nerve tissue. It is typically performed by inserting a needle through the skin and into the area of the body where the pain originates. A variation of the procedure, radiofrequency catheter ablation, delivers the radio waves via a catheter instead of a needle.
The procedure can treat a range of conditions, including chronic back and neck pain. It can also be used to treat chronic venous insufficiency in the legs and shrink benign and malignant tumors or other growths in the body.
Radiofrequency ablation is not recommended for everyone. It is best suited for chronic pain that hasn’t improved with other treatments, such as medications or physical therapy. The results of radiofrequency ablation vary, and it is possible the pain may return, requiring additional treatments.
Radiofrequency ablation (also called rhizotomy) is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure to help reduce chronic pain. The goal of radiofrequency ablation is to use radio waves to produce heat to destroy a small area of nerves. Radiofrequency waves are electromagnetic waves that travel at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second).
The heat generated by the radio waves destroys nerve tissue and stops it from sending pain signals to the brain. The goals of radiofrequency ablation are to:
Stop or reduce pain.
Reduce the number of pain medications taken.
Avoid or delay surgery.
Radiofrequency ablation offers longer-term pain relief than nerve blocks or other injections.
The procedure can help relieve pain from varicose veins in the legs, and chronic pain in the lower back, neck, and arthritic joints when other approaches have failed.
Conditions Treated with Radiofrequency Ablation
Typically, radiofrequency ablation targets pain from the facet joints, pairs of small joints located at each vertebral level of the spine. Each facet joint connects to two branch nerves that carry pain signals to the brain.
Many types of chronic pain respond well to radiofrequency ablation, including:
Chronic pain caused by conditions including arthritis of the spine (spondylosis) and sacroiliac (SI) joint pain.
Neuropathic pain conditions like peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes.
Pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis.
Spinal arthritis (spondylosis).
Radiofrequency ablation can also seal off diseased varicose veins to redirect blood flow to healthier veins in the legs.
Unfortunately, radiofrequency ablation is temporary pain relief as it does not treat the source of the pain. Over time, the treated nerves recover function, so the pain returns, and the procedure must be repeated.
How Does Radiofrequency Ablation Work?
Using X-ray guidance, a special radiofrequency needle is positioned alongside the nerves causing the pain. Once the needle is in place, radio waves produce heat in the needle, which destroys the targeted nerve tissue. With the nerve tissue destroyed, it no longer sends signals to the brain. If needed, more than one nerve can be treated during the procedure.
Radiofrequency ablation is similar to a needle biopsy and involves inserting a needle-like probe into the body. The procedure takes place at the pain clinic in Lakeland, Florida, and requires no general anesthesia. The patient may receive medicine to help relax for the procedure and a numbing agent for the area of the skin where the probe is inserted. Patients go home the same day as their treatment and can return to their normal activities within 24 hours.
Who Can Benefit from Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation may be the right treatment if chronic pain does not respond to other treatments, such as pain medication and physical therapy. The amount of pain relief varies by the source of the pain and its location in the body. Some patients report immediate relief. For others, it may take three or more weeks to feel the full effects of the procedure.
It is important to note that pain relief from radiofrequency ablation is not permanent. The procedure does not address the cause of the pain; it only treats the nerves sending pain signals to the brain. Typically, the pain relief lasts six to twelve months; however, the procedure can be repeated.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Novus Spine & Pain Center is in Lakeland, Florida, and treats patients with chronic pain with numerous therapies, including radiofrequency ablation. By using a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies, we work together with patients to restore function and regain an active lifestyle, while minimizing the need for opiates.