Radiofrequency rhizotomy or neurotomy is a therapeutic pain relief procedure devised to treat pain symptoms caused by degenerative facet joints within the spine. The procedure targets the nerves that innervate the facet joints with highly localized heat generated by radiofrequency. As a result, the communication of pain signals to the brain is deterred and pain is eliminated.
How is Radiofrequency Rhizotomy Performed?
RF rhizotomy is an advanced injection procedure that utilizes a needle-like tube called a cannula to be placed adjacent to the degenerative facet joint. The position of the needle is checked by fluoroscope, or x-ray camera, which is connected to a monitor. To verify the needle position, the nerve may be stimulated using low voltage electricity. The stimulation will cause the affected muscles to rhythmically contract. After, anesthetic is used to numb the nerve, heat is applied for approximately 60 seconds. This heat is designed to create a lesion, causing the nerve to become cauterized or burnt, which in turn breaks the communication link to the brain. This procedure is then repeated at other levels including the levels above and below where the pain is originating.
What should be expected?
Patients may experience numbness and/or relief from pain symptoms anywhere between 2-8 hours after the procedure due to the anesthetic. However, once the local anesthetic effects have worn off, it is normal if the pain symptoms return for up to 1 week after the procedure. Noticeable improvements of pain relief usually occur by 2-3 weeks after the procedure.
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