Radiofrequency ablation, also known as Rhizotomy, is one of the most effective minimally invasive procedures for patients experiencing spinal pain. At Remedy Pain Solutions, our interventional pain specialists conduct a thorough investigation to identify the root cause of your pain and treat it with radiofrequency ablation. Please schedule a consultation with our pain specialists in Marina del Rey or Manhattan Beach, California, to determine if you’re a viable candidate.
What is Radiofrequency Ablation/ Rhizotomy?
Radiofrequency ablation, also known as Rhizotomy, is a minimally invasive procedure that relieves back pain,
neck pain, and other types of pain associated with facet disease. This procedure delivers radiofrequency waves into the targeted region to ablate (burn) the nerve roots carrying the pain signals into the brain. By blocking the pain signal transmission, it alleviates all the pain and discomfort.
What does Radiofrequency Ablation Treat?
Radiofrequency ablation treats chronic pains associated with facet disease, a degenerative condition affecting the facet joints between the vertebrae. The facet joints are supposed to ensure smooth spinal movements, allowing you to bend, twist, and stretch your spine without any discomfort. However, the facet joints can eventually be worn down due to age or injuries, leading to severe back and neck pains.
Individuals with facet disease may experience pain, discomfort, stiffness, and the loss of mobility in various parts of the body, depending on the location of the affected facet joint.
- Cervical facet joints cause pain in the shoulders, upper back, arms, hands, and fingers.
- Thoracic facet joints cause pain in the middle back, torso, and ribcage.
- Lumbar facet joints cause pain in the lower back, buttocks, and upper legs.
When the facet joints are worn down or damaged, the surrounding regions can get inflamed. And the surrounding nerve roots carry the pain signals to the brain, resulting in sharp pains. However, since radiofrequency ablation essentially destroys the nerve roots near the inflamed joints, you don’t experience any pain. The procedure is performed under fluoroscopic (x-ray) guidance, making it incredibly targeted.
Consultation & Pre-Treatment
Remedy Pain Solutions always conducts thorough investigations and diagnoses before curating a treatment plan. We review your health history, discuss your symptoms, and perform physical examinations to trace the exact locus of the problem. However, tracing the source of the facet joint pain is difficult because the nerves run throughout the body, causing pain in different regions. However, we use advanced imaging tests to visualize the inflamed joints and identify the root cause of your pains.
Radiofrequency ablation is usually preceded by a round of epidural injections or facet block injections. Facet injections are composed of a local anesthetic and an anti-inflammatory steroid (cortisone). These injections serve two purposes — identifying the affected facet joints, and providing temporary pain relief. When injected into the targeted facet joint, these injections provide temporary relief. If they don’t, that provides the diagnostic information that the pain originates from another facet block.
If the first facet block injection works, the pain specialist might call you for a second injection after a few months to negate the possibility of false positives or a placebo effect. If the facet injection doesn’t work, they repeat the procedure in other possibly affected facet blocks to identify the exact root cause. If the facet injections work twice over, you may be deemed suitable for a radiofrequency ablation, which provides more long-lasting relief.
The Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure
The Rhizotomy procedure is performed on an outpatient basis within an hour. You have to lie face down on an x-ray table to give the pain specialist access to your spine. A local anesthetic is injected into the targeted region to ensure comfort. Under fluoroscopic guidance, the pain specialist inserts a needle into the affected facet joint.
An electrode threaded through the needle delivers radiofrequency energy to cauterize the nerve, thereby preventing it from sending signals to your brain. You can return home the same day, and resume most of your daily activities in a few days. Patients who undergo radiofrequency ablation report a significant improvement in functions.
While radiofrequency ablation is certainly an effective procedure, it’s not the only suitable procedure for facet joint disease. Our interventional pain specialists might also recommend regenerative medicines that encourage tissue regeneration to repair the damaged facet joints. Please consult our pain specialists to discuss your treatment options.