Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain in patients with chronic low-back and neck pain, or pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, decreasing pain signals from that specific area.
Pain relief from RFA can last from six to 12 months and in some cases, for years.
What to Expect
Typical locations that can be treated with RFA are the spine and knee. This has become a common interventional procedure to help patients with chronic neck and lower back pain. It involves placing specialized needles into the spine using precise image-guidance. The tips of these needles reach the small nerve endings that are the source of pain. Through a generator with a probe, that is placed down the needle, the tip of the needle can be heated to cauterize the appropriate nerve endings. This procedure is typically performed under IV sedation.
Do not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours. Whether you go home to rest or head back to work, you can enjoy your typical meals and snacks right away. While you can take a shower, you should avoid submersion for 24-48 hours. For example, don’t enter a bathtub, pool, or hot tub.
Also, take it slow for the next 24 hours; for example, avoid exercising. You may experience leg numbness and may require assistance walking, which should only last a few hours. Mild back discomfort may occur when the local anesthetic wears off and should subside after several days. Apply ice to the area the day of the procedure and consider heat the day after for any discomfort.