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Radiofrequency Ablation/ Neurotomy (RFA)

Overview

Radiofrequency ablation or neurotomy can reduce back and neck pain by precisely targeting specific nerves with heat, which interferes with the nerves’ ability to transmit pain signals. The radio waves and heat are introduced to the targeted area via a small needle or needles, which the doctor guides with the help of imaging scans. RFA is an effective treatment for most people, but is not a permanent cure. The affected nerves will regenerate within 3 to 12 months.

Procedure Details and Expectations

During this in-office procedure, which takes between 30 to 90 minutes, you’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the area to be treated and a mild sedative, but will remain awake during treatment. Your doctor will guide a micro-electrode through a small needle and you’ll be asked if you feel tingling in the target area, which indicates whether the electrode is optimally placed. When placement is established, your doctor will initiate the mild radiofrequency current to heat the surrounding tissue and block pain signals being sent by the nerves.

We’ll monitor your recovery and send you home that same day. You’ll need someone to drive you home. You may have some soreness at the injection site for a day or two. Applying an ice pack can help. Do not use a heating pad. Avoid strenuous activity and don’t drive for 24 hours. You can take a shower, but wait 48 hours before taking a bath. There are no diet restrictions.

How to Prepare for Treatment

This is a non-surgical procedure, but some preparation is necessary:

  • Stop eating solid food six hours before the procedure. You can have clear liquids until two hours prior to treatment.
  • Continue your medications, unless given instructions about specific drugs.
  • If you have diabetes, adjust your insulin dosage as instructed by your doctor.
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
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