What is a Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) uses heat to destroy tissue. For pain management, radio waves are sent through a precisely placed needle to heat an area of the nerve. This prevents pain signals from being sent back to your brain. RFA is considered for long-term pain conditions, especially of the neck, lower back or arthritic joints that haven’t been successfully treated with other methods.
Why is an RFA done?
The goals of this procedure is to:
- Stop or reduce pain.
- Improve function.
- Reduce the number of pain medications taken.
- Avoid or delay surgery.
What conditions can be treated with radiofrequency ablation?
RFA’s are used to treat:
- Chronic pain caused by conditions including arthritis of the spine (spondylosis) and sacroiliac (SI) joint pain.
- Pain in your neck, back and knee.
- Cancer pain.
- Facial pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia.
- Peripheral nerve pain.
- Heart rhythm problems.
- Tumors (to kill cells).
How does and RFA work?
This procedure uses heat produced from radio waves to target diseased tissue. When radiofrequency is applied to nerve tissue, it damages nerves, which prevents or stops the pain signal from reaching the brain and results in pain relief.
During a radiofrequency ablation procedure, a small hollow needle is inserted into the targeted nerve that is causing pain. An electrode is inserted into the top of the needle, which sends the radio waves through the needle to the targeted nerve. The heat causes a lesion that prevents the nerve from sending pain signals to your brain. Nearby healthy nerves are not damaged during the procedure.
Who is a candidate for an RFA?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may be right for you if have:
Pain relief following a nerve block injection. This tells your provider that that particular nerve is the source of your pain and is an appropriate target for RFA. Chronic pain that does not respond to other treatment, such as pain medication and physical therapy. You may not be a candidate for radiofrequency ablation if you:
- Are pregnant.
- Have an infection.
- Have a bleeding problem.