A radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is simply a minimally invasive procedure that aims at destroying the nerve fibers that carry pain signals to your brain. It is a pain management technique that can offer lasting relief for patients battling with chronic pain, particularly arthritic joints, neck, and lower back. If you have been battling with recurrent chronic pain and probably you have experienced significant relief with the nerve block injection technique, then, you might be a candidate for RFA.
RFA is also known as a rhizotomy. It utilizes heat to minimize or stop the transmission of pain signals to your brain. Note that radiofrequency waves ‘burn’ or ablate the nerve that might be causing pain by eliminating the transmissions of such signals.
It is a procedure most commonly used in the treatment of chronic pain and health conditions including sacroiliitis and the arthritis of the spine. RFA can also be used in the treatment of back, pelvis, knee, neck, and peripheral nerve pain. Some of the benefits of choosing RFA include immediate pain relief, no need for surgical procedures, decreased need for chronic pain medication, no recovery time needed, a quick return to work, and improved function.
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Who is a good candidate for RFA?
RFA is a good treatment option for nearly all patients who have ever experienced pain relief following a diagnostic pain receptor or vein block injection. It is done using X-ray (fluoroscopic) guidance. RFA shouldn’t be performed on patients who are pregnant, have bleeding problems or have a certain infection.
Keep in mind that the RFA procedure should be performed by qualified physicians. These experts include anesthesiologists, surgeons, radiologists, and neurologists. If you need this procedure, make sure that it is performed by the right expert and in a fully equipped medical facility.
Before the procedure…
Your doctor will review your medical history and all previous imaging studies to plan the right location for the RFA procedure successfully. Thus, you should be prepared to ask the right questions during the review session.
Note that patients who take blood-thinning medication or aspirin may be required to stop taking these drugs a few days before the RFA procedure. Therefore, it is wise to discuss all the drugs you have been taking with your doctor. It is also helpful to tell your doctor more details about the medical practitioner who prescribed the medication.
RFA procedure is performed in an outpatient specific procedure suite that can access fluoroscopy. Patients should make arrangements to have someone drive them to and from the outpatient center or office the day of the procedure.
After the procedure…
Patients can walk well immediately after RFA. However, your doctor must monitor your progress for a short time before you leave the office or suite. It is advisable to have someone drive you home. You should also schedule follow-up appointments with the treating or referring physician after the procedure. This is necessary to document the effectiveness and address any concern you may have for future expectations and treatments.