RADIOFREQUENCY ABLATION

 

WHAT IS A RADIOFREQUENCY ABLATION?

Radiofrequency ablation is commonly used to treat neck and back pain by transmitting pulsations of heat to the site of discomfort via a fine needle or probe.  The result of this heat is to destroy the targeted nerve and therefore disrupt the ability of that nerve to transmit pain signals.

 

This is a sterile procedure to reduce the risk of infection.  A cannula will be placed into your arm for injection of pain relief if needed.  Local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and a fine needle is accurately positioned under CT (Computerized Tomography) control.  You will be awake to help the Doctor properly assess if the needle is in the optimal area of treatment.  Once the RFA is finished long term anaesthetic (6 hours) and cortisone (anti-inflammatory) are injected around the nerve/s in order to minimize discomfort which may arise following the treatment.

 

Procedure time takes approximately one hour depending on the number of nerves being treated.  Further time is then spent post-recovery of approximately 2 hours to ensure that you are well enough to return home

 

You will need to have a driver to take you home after this procedure.

 

HOW LONG DOES PAIN RELIEF FOLLOWING RFA LAST?

The degree of pain relief varies, depending on the cause and location of pain.  Pain relief from RFA can last from 6 – 12 months and in some cases, relief can last for years.  More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience some pain relief.  Even in the setting of a successful procedure where the nerve/s have been destroyed, some recovery of the nerve fibres and return of the pain may occur following many months or years.  Repeat of the procedure in this instance may be required.

 

COMMON RISKS AND COMPLICATIONS INCLUDE:

  • Bleeding or bruising may occur. This is more common if you take any blood thinners.
  • Back or neck ache due to the muscle being aggravated by the insertion of the needle. It is usually mild and temporary and may occur for one to two weeks.
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Headache or numbness in the area being treated.

 

POST-PROCEDURE INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Do not drive for 48 hours (cervical spine) or 24 hours (lumbar spine).
  • GO STRAIGHT HOME AND RELAX RECLINED OR SEMI-RECLINED FOR THE REST OF THE DAY.
  • Bed rest for 24-48hrs per request as tolerated
  • Our practice nurse will phone you within the following 3 days for follow-up.
  • Light duties are recommended for the next one to two weeks. This means no exercise, heavy lifting, housework, gardening, gym, yoga, swimming etc.
  • Go to your GP or emergency department if you become unwell or have any pain (not relieved by pain medication), continuous bleeding/redness/inflammation at the puncture site or unexplained numbness.
  • Apply ice packs to the area one to two times per day for one to three weeks or as needed.
  • Do not walk around guarding your neck.  Move limbs (arms and legs) as normal as possible e.g., (stiff necks or not walking).
  • Post procedure soreness of the area can last up to 4-6 weeks