What is Radiofrequency Ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation, or rhizotomy, is a safe, effective, and minimally invasive procedure aimed at relieving chronic pain. During an RFA procedure, heat from an electrical current is used to decrease pain signals in the affected area. Radiofrequency nerve ablation can help treat patients who suffer from chronic back, neck, and joint pain, especially when pain medication, physical therapy, or other treatment options have proven unsuccessful at doing so. While the duration of pain relief from RFA can vary, many patients have experienced pain relief for 6 to 12 months after treatment.
What to Expect from Radiofrequency Ablation
If you’re deemed to be a good candidate for radiofrequency ablation, our Austin pain specialists will inform you of any precautions that should be taken to prepare for your RFA procedure. Some of these precautions may include fasting or adjusting insulin dosage (if you have diabetes) prior to your procedure and arranging for someone to drive you home after treatment.
During the actual RFA procedure, patients can expect to receive a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area. The doctor will then insert a thin needle into your skin, using a live X-ray to help pinpoint the area where you feel pain. A microelectrode will then be inserted through the needle, sending a safe electric current that heats your nerve tissue and decreases pain signals. This process is then repeated until the nerves in the area where you feel pain have been disrupted to no longer transmit pain signals.
The Radiofrequency Ablation Process
Schedule an Appointment
Contact Greater Austin Pain Center to request an appointment at one of our three Central Texas pain management treatment centers.
During your initial appointment, our pain specialists will take the time to learn about your chronic pain and any past treatment attempts. This evaluation will help us determine a tailored treatment option that will work for you.
Receive Your RFA Treatment
Patients will be given a local anesthetic to numb the treatment area. The doctor will then insert a thin needle to the area suffering from pain, sending a small electric current to heat your nerve tissue and decrease pain signals.
While patients can walk on their own after their RFA procedure, driving and engaging in rigorous activity should be avoided for 24 hours. Patients can resume their normal activities after this time period.
What Does Radiofrequency Ablation Treat?
Radiofrequency ablation has proven to be successful at managing lower back and neck pain that has not responded to other treatment options. It also helps manage pain related to degenerative joint diseases, such as arthritis. If you’re suffering from chronic pain in your back, neck, or joints, RFA may be a viable treatment option for you.
For more information about how a radiofrequency ablation procedure can treat your chronic pain, contact Greater Austin Pain Center to schedule an appointment.
Types of Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures
Continuous Radiofrequency Ablation
Continuous radiofrequency ablation involves gradually increasing the temperature of the microelectrode used to heat the nerve tissue. The heat is maintained for 90 to 120 seconds, which is the time needed to disrupt the nerve’s ability to transmit pain signals. The duration of a continuous RFA procedure will vary depending on the amount of nerves that need to be treated to manage the patient’s pain.
Pulsed Radiofrequency Ablation
Pulsed radiofrequency ablation consists of quick, high voltage currents that last less than half a second. The pulsing currents are maintained until the nerve tissue is disrupted, which can take anywhere from two to eight minutes.
RFA Frequently Asked Questions
Is radiofrequency ablation safe?
Yes, radiofrequency nerve ablation is a safe, low-risk procedure. Serious complications, such as infection or bleeding near the treatment area, are not common.
What are the side effects of radiofrequency ablation?
Typical side effects from a radiofrequency ablation procedure include soreness or mild bruising where the needles were placed. These side effects should resolve within 1 or 2 days.
Is radiofrequency ablation an effective treatment option for pain?
Over 70% of patients who undergo a radiofrequency ablation procedure experience pain relief. While the length of that pain relief can vary, most patients experience relief from pain for 6 to 12 months after treatment. In other cases, pain relief can last years!
How long does radiofrequency ablation take?
Patients can expect their entire radiofrequency ablation procedure to take approximately 30 minutes. The duration of the radiofrequency nerve ablation procedure will depend on the location and the amount of nerves that need to be treated. The type of RFA treatment also affects the duration.
What should I expect after radiofrequency ablation?
Patients undergoing an RFA procedure should arrange to have someone drive them home after their procedure. For at least 24 hours after the procedure, patients should avoid driving, operating machinery, or engaging in rigorous physical activity. Once the 24 hours have passed, patients can return to their normal daily routine.
Treat Your Chronic Pain with Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)
If you suffer from joint degeneration related to arthritis or chronic pain in your back or neck, schedule an appointment with Greater Austin Pain Center to learn more about our radiofrequency ablation procedures. With locations in Austin, Kyle, and Dripping Springs, our pain management specialists are ready to help you find a treatment option for your chronic pain.