Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) - The Spine Hospital Of Louisiana

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), also called rhizotomy or radiofrequency neurotomy, can be used to help patients with chronic and long-lasting lower back and neck pain as well as pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis. The non-surgical procedure uses an electrical current produced by a radio wave to heat up a small area of nerve tissue in order to decrease pain signals from that specific area.

In preparation for the procedure, you lie on your stomach. You are given medicine to make you feel relaxed. The skin and tissue of your back is numbed before the physician inserts a tube called a “cannula.” A video x-ray device called a “fluoroscope” helps guide the cannula to the medial branch nerves in your spine. These tiny nerves carry pain signals from your facet joints to your brain. The physician then inserts an electrode through the cannula. A weak electric jolt is used to test its position. If the jolt recreates the pain but does not cause any other muscular effects, it is positioned correctly. Then the physician uses the electrode to heat the nerve. This disrupts its ability to transmit pain signals. Several nerves may be treated if necessary.

When the procedure is complete, the electrode and cannula are removed. A small bandage is placed on your skin. You will be monitored for a brief time before you are allowed to go home. Your injection site may feel sore after the procedure, and you may still have back pain. If the correct nerves were treated, you will gradually experience pain relief as you heal. This may take several weeks.