What is radiofrequency ablation (RFA)?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that generates thermal energy to destroy the damaged nerve that sends pain signals to the brain. Also known as rhizotomy, the RFA procedure uses radio waves to create a current and destroy the nerve responsible for transmitting pain signals to your brain. Since it destroys the inflamed nerve fiber, you don’t experience pain anymore. This is one of the most effective pain management solutions for patients with chronic pain, especially lower back pain and neck pain.
New Jersey Back Center is a group of state-of-the-art back centers specializing in minimally invasive procedures for back pain. Our back centers are led by interventional pain specialists who diagnose and treat the root cause of pain — not just the symptoms. During your consultation, the back doctor will examine your back, check your range of motion, and administer imaging tests to identify the underlying root cause of the pain. After a thorough evaluation, they curate a personalized treatment plan, which may include the RFA procedure.
New Jersey Back Center has offices in West Orange, Woodland Park, Clifton, and Paramus. The back center in Clifton is located at 1117 US-46, Suite 205 Clifton, which is located on Route 46-E near the garden state parkway. The back center in Woodland Park is located at 1167 McBride Avenue, Suite 200, a short drive from the Garden State Plaza. Our Paramus back center is located near the Paramus Park Mall. Depending on your location, you can schedule an appointment at your nearest back center in New Jersey.
Why is RFA performed?
The RFA procedure involves channeling thermal energy via a small needle to destroy the nerve that sends pain signals to your brain. The following are the goals of radiofrequency ablation:
- Reduce or eliminate chronic pain
- Improve overall functionality
- Improve range of motion
- Reduce reliance on pain medications
- Delay or eliminate the need for surgery
What conditions can the RFA procedure treat?
Radiofrequency ablation can be used to treat the following conditions:
- Peripheral nerve pain
- Cancer pain
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Knee pain
- Chronic pain caused by arthritis
- Sacroiliac (SI) joint pain
- Other forms of chronic pain
How does the RFA procedure work?
Radiofrequency ablation can help you treat and manage pain arising from the joints or the spine, especially the cervical spine or lumbar spine. The spine protects the spinal cord, which sends a network of nerve fibers into various parts of your body to convey signals to and from the brain. The nerves have to travel past the facet joints and sacroiliac joints between the vertebrae.
Medical conditions and disorders that affect the cervical spine, thoracic spine, lumbar spine, or any of the surrounding structures can pinch the nerve branches. When the nerve fibers are inflamed, they can send pain signals to various parts of the body. Radiofrequency ablation involves using a specialized needle to generate thermal energy to destroy the inflamed nerve and prevent it from sending pain signals to the brain.
Who needs the RFA procedure?
The RFA procedure is a minimally invasive procedure for patients with chronic pain. Radiofrequency ablation isn’t the first treatment that pain doctors recommend. Your treatments may start with conservative solutions, such as rest, ice, compression, physical therapy, and epidural injections. If those treatments don’t work, your pain doctor may perform a nerve block, which involves administering local anesthesia into the suspected nerve responsible for carrying pain signals to the brain.
If you experience pain relief after a nerve block, the pain doctor can identify the nerve responsible for your back pain. Nerve block injections provide temporary relief from pain — the pain returns once the anesthetic wears off. As such, if you have experienced pain relief after a nerve block injection and if other treatments haven’t offered lasting relief, a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is suitable.
However, you may not be a candidate for the RFA procedure if you’re pregnant or have an active infection or bleeding problem.
What happens during radiofrequency ablation?
During the RFA procedure, your medical provider will ask you to lie down on your stomach on a special table. The pain doctor will administer local anesthesia to ensure comfort. The pain doctor will insert a thin needle into the targeted area and guide it to the inflamed nerve under fluoroscopic guidance.
Once the needle is in place, the pain doctor will activate it to deliver a local anesthetic and send a radiofrequency current into the nerve. The current will destroy the nerve and prevent it from sending pain signals to your brain. The entire procedure concludes within 15 to 30 minutes, following which you can resume your daily activities.
What are the side effects of radiofrequency ablation?
You can expect mild redness, swelling, and burning sensations at the treatment sites after the procedure. The post-treatment side effects may last for a week or two after the RFA procedure. You can apply ice packs to the treatment areas for intervals of 20 minutes to alleviate pain and discomfort. You may experience a little numbness and tenderness in the area where the RFA needle enters your skin, but the risk of complications is negligible.
What are the long-term effects of radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation will alleviate pain and help you lead a pain-free life. In rare cases, patients may experience infections, nerve damage, or skin burns, but the risk of complications is negligible. Furthermore, our interventional pain doctors take all necessary precautions to ensure your treatment is painless, comfortable, and safe. You must also follow the pain doctor’s postoperative guidelines to ensure optimal results.