Certain painful conditions, such as spinal arthritis, can be treated with radiofrequency ablation. First we prove that the pain can be reduced significantly by injecting local anesthetics around the sensory nerves. The local anesthetic typically provides only short-term relief, in most cases less than a few hours. If the pain reduces enough, we will repeat this on a different day to confirm the amount of relief. With appropriate relief after the second set of injections, RFA may be recommended to provide a longer duration or relief, typically 6 months or more.
RFA uses heat generated from radio waves to reduce or eliminate the pain signals from the tested areas. It is a safe procedure when performed by a skilled physician.
What Are Joint Radiofrequency Injections?
A radiofrequency neurotomy, or joint radiofrequency injection, is a type of procedure utilized to treat facet joint pain or sacroiliac joint pain caused by arthritis and other types of degenerative diseases or from an injury. It is also referred to as radiofrequency ablation.
What Joints Are Treated with Radiofrequency Injections?
Arthritis, joint degeneration, or trauma can cause spinal discomfort and a reduced range of motion. The joints addressed with radiofrequency injections are:
- Facet joints – pairs of small joints which are located at each vertebral level in the back of the spine. Each facet joint is linked to two medial branch nerves which transport signals, including pain signals, from the spine to the brain.
- Sacroiliac joints – these joints are located at the lowest part of the spine, between the ilium in the pelvis and the sacrum. They are connected to lateral branch nerves which carry signals to the brain.
The radiofrequency ablation process is meant to treat lower back discomfort deriving from either facet joint or sacroiliac joint issues.
How is the Procedure Performed?
During this procedure, a heat lesion is formed on specific nerves with the purpose of disrupting the pain signals being sent to the brain, thus ceasing pain. The terms radiofrequency ablation and radiofrequency neurotomy are both used to describe the procedure. The procedure destroys the functionality of the affected nerve by utilizing radiofrequency energy. There are two main forms of radiofrequency ablation:
- A medial branch neurotomy addresses the nerves transporting pain signals from the facet joints
- A lateral branch neurotomy affects nerves which carry discomfort from the sacroiliac joints
These medial or lateral branch nerves do not control muscles or sensation in the extremities so a heat lesion does not pose much danger of negatively impacting those regions. To determine if you are a good candidate for the treatment, contact the office to schedule a consultation.