FAQ’s on Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
Radiofrequency ablation (or RFA), also called radiofrequency neurotomy or lesioning, is a treatment procedure that helps in preventing pain signals from being communicated to the brain. It is a minimally invasive procedure option for patients experiencing chronic pain symptoms in the back or neck.
What does Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) do?
The main objective of the procedure is to heat up and “deaden” the nerve endings around the back, neck or sacroiliac joint, the nerves that supply sensation. They are very tiny nerve endings bringing feeling to the joint itself. If these nerves are negated, the pain signals will not be sent to the brain and pain will be decreased to a great extent.
What are the indications for a Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)?
Radiofrequency Ablation is an outpatient procedure that is ideally suited for those with chronic neck or back pain. If an individual has a successful medial branch block and the pain relief wears off, then an RFA may be the best next step.
In the modern era, the indications for RFA are expanding. Sacroiliac joint pain is showing excellent results from the procedure. Occipital neuralgia patients tend to do well with pulsed occipital RFA, and there are plexus blocks which may work well for pelvic or abdominal pain as pulsed procedures too.
What happens in a Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) procedure?
Generally, an intravenous (IV) line will administer a local anesthetic with a mild sedative to help reduce discomfort during the procedure. To aid in the assessment, patients are often awake during the procedure.
Once the anesthesia renders the patient numb, the Denver pain management doctor inserts a small needle into the region that was presenting pain. Guided by fluoroscopy, the doctor reaches the target area with precision.
The newest radiofrequency machines allow for four microelectrodes to be inserted simultaneously, so 2 joints bilaterally can be worked on at the same time. Once the electrodes are in place, the Denver pain doctor initiates a test simulation process to determine if the placement is successful or too close to any of the nerve roots.
Once in position, radiofrequency current is sent through the microelectrode, administering heat. Usually the electrode tip is heated to 80 degrees celsius for approximately 90 seconds.
What happens after the RFA treatment?
The procedure typically lasts between 30 and 45 minutes, and then the patient will be moved to recovery room for monitoring by a medical professional. It is recommended that strenuous activity for the first 24 hours be avoided, as well as operating heavy machinery.
Is Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) safe?
Latent complications following a radiofrequency ablation may include numbness of the skin and pain about the injection site. The site of the injection may have initial swelling and discoloration or bruising that may last a few days Also, muscle spasms and increased pain immediately following the procedure may occur on a temporary basis.
Radiofrequency Ablation on average alleviates pain from 6 to 18 months for over 75% of patients. If a repeat procedure becomes necessary, studies have shown the RFA works well the second time as well.
Colorado Pain offers treatment with Board Certified Denver pain management doctors along with additional locations in Buena Vista and Granby CO. Most insurance is accepted, and the Denver pain clinics offer both medication management and interventional procedures.
Call (720) 306-9575 for more information and scheduling today!