Radiofrequency Ablation: Your Questions Answered.
What is radio frequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a non-surgical procedure used to treat pain. It works by using electrical currents to ablate, or heat up, an area of nerve tissue, which disrupts its pain mechanisms. While it sounds intimidating, it’s actually a very safe, effective and relatively painless experience.
What does it involve?
At the start of your session, the doctor may administer a mild sedative; he then applies anaesthetic to the treatment area. Using fluoroscopy, or live x-ray, the doctor then guides a special radiofrequency needle through to the affected nerve. When the needle is in position, the electrical current is passed through it. The goal is to verify that the needle is positioned correctly and safely. This helps to ensure maximum results and maximum safety.
Now that the needle has been positioned correctly at the source of the pain, the doctor numbs the nerve. Using radiofrequency waves, the tip of the needle is then heated and used to create a small heat lesion on the nerve, which interferes with its ability to send pain signals. If more than one nerve is involved, this process is repeated as necessary.
The entire procedure usually takes around thirty minutes and you’ll go home the same day. You may have to refrain from driving or doing strenuous activities for a short period afterwards, but recovery is generally very quick and straightforward.
What are the benefits?
Radiofrequency ablation has proven to be a very effective treatment for a number of conditions. The most common applications are for persistent lower back, neck, knee, and spinal pain. It’s also a popular treatment for chronic and degenerative joint disorders like arthritis.
Patients benefit from significant pain reduction without the need to take painkillers or undergo invasive surgeries. Relief is quick and recovery time is short, meaning minimal disruption to the patient’s daily life. Many patients see relief in as little as two weeks with results typically lasting anywhere from one to two years. In addition, repeated treatments are well tolerated without the risk of degrading the nerves or joints.
Is it safe?
RFA has a very strong track record when it comes to safety. As a non-invasive procedure, the risk of complications is low, and the highly targeted, fluoroscopy-assisted delivery means that there is much less likelihood of damage to surrounding tissues.
However, there is always a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the injection site. With this in mind, patients with health conditions and those taking certain medications, such as blood-thinners, need to exercise caution. A prior discussion with a personal physician is highly recommended.
Is it painful?
RFA is a relatively painless procedure. You may feel some discomfort, especially if your joints are sore or tender, but anaesthetic will be used to minimize pain. Afterwards, there may be some swelling, bruising, or residual soreness from the needle, but this typically clears up within days.
Is it suitable for anyone?
No. As with any procedure, not everybody is a suitable candidate for radiofrequency ablation. If you have an infection or a blood clotting disorder, for example, RFA is not recommended. And unfortunately, some pain simply doesn’t respond to this particular treatment.
Before deciding on RFA as a course of treatment, we will perform simple pain blocks at the suspected source of your pain. We will then ask you to monitor your pain and note any change in function. If your pain appears to respond to these initial tests, then we will proceed with RFA. If not, we will guide you through other more appropriate options.
Talk to us about radiofrequency ablation.
If you’re suffering from chronic back, neck or joint pain, it’s worth finding out if RFA can help. Call 1-864-235-1834 now to book a no-obligation consultation at our Greenville clinic.