Radio frequency Ablation (RFA)

Also Known As Rhizotomy

What is a Rhizotomy (RFA)?

A Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) also known as Rhizotomy, is a procedure to cauterize (burn) a nerve that is transmitting pain signals from arthritic facet joints to the brain.

There are a series of nerves that transmits pain from various joints to the brain when those joints are arthritic or inflamed. If these nerves are ablated (or cauterized), pain from these joints can no longer be transmitted to the brain. A facet RFA is therefore performed to alleviate pain due to arthritic facet joints.

Why might I need a Rhizotomy?

A rhizotomy provides significant pain relief for patients suffering from the following conditions:

  • Chronic neck or lower back pain

  • Spinal stenosis

  • Degenerative disc disease

  • Spondylosis

  • Lumbago

  • Scoliosis

  • Arthritis of neck or lower back

What happens during the procedure?

  1. An IV will be started and the patient will be placed comfortably on an x-ray table, the skin over your neck, mid-back or low back is cleansed.

  2. The physician will numb a small area of skin, which may sting for a few seconds. The physician will use x-ray guidance to direct a special (radiofrequency) needle alongside the medial branch nerves. A small amount of electrical current will then be carefully passed through each needle to assure proper positioning.

  3. The nerves will then be numbed to prevent discomfort while the nerve is being lesioned. This process will be repeated for usually 1-5 additional nerves. The entire procedure usually takes between 30-60 minutes.


What happens after the procedure?

On the day of the injection you should not drive, and you should avoid any strenuous activities. On the day after the procedure, you may cautiously return to your regular activities, but most rest for an additional 1-2 days. Your neck or back will usually be sore during the next several weeks. This pain is usually caused by muscle spasms and irritability while the targeted nerves are dying from the heat lesion which may take 7-21 days

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