Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a non-surgical pain management procedure in which heat from radiofrequency energy is applied to nerve tissue, thus interrupting pain signals to the brain. This is an out-patient procedure to alleviate back pain, neck pain, or pain in cervical area or muscles. In the bony spine, there are individual vertebrae that provide a flexible support structure and protect the spinal chord. Cervical medial branch nerves are innervated to the facet joints of each vertebra; if a joint becomes damaged or arthritic, these nerves communicate pain signals to the brain.
How is the procedure performed?
A local anesthetic is used to numb the area to be treated and a needle is carefully guided into place using real-time x-ray, or fluoroscope. Then, an electrode is inserted through the needle to deliver the radiofrequency energy, in order to produce an electrical current that heats the medial branch nerve. To test if the position is correct, a weak electric current is administered to stimulate the pain without any muscular effects. Finally, the electrode heats the damaged nerve, obstructing its communication with the brain and ability to send pain signals.
What should be expected?
The procedure generally takes 30 minutes to 1 hour. Patients are conscious throughout the procedure in order to provide feedback of what they are experiencing. It is normal for patients to experience pain for the first few days after the procedure due to the ablated nerve. After this period, patients will begin to experience pain relief which can last anywhere from 9 months to 2 years.
If you are interested in finding out more about Cervical Medial Branch, our conveniently located clinics are in West Orange, Aberdeen, Clifton, and Lyndhurst. We offer weekday and weekend appointments.