What is Radiofrequency Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation (sometimes referred to as radiofrequency neurotomy) is an outpatient procedure that uses electrical energy to create a lesion on a specific targeted nerve. This lesion blocks or interrupts pain signals being sent from the targeted nerve.
Most Commonly Treated Areas:
- Neck (cervical facet)
- Mid-back (thoracic facet)
- Low back (lumbar facet)
- Buttocks (sacroiliac joint)
Results are based on each individual receiving treatment; so what works for you may not work for a friend. This is believed to be the result of individual anatomy and genetic differences. A small number of people get little to no relief from this procedure and unfortunately, there is no way of knowing before the procedure whether the procedure will work or how long the pain relief will last.
- It may take 3 or more weeks before you notice the full, pain-relieving effect of the ablation.
- Results typically last between 3 and 12 months
What to expect the day of the procedure
Radiofrequency ablation is typically an outpatient procedure performed under mild sedation. The procedure itself takes about an hour but may take longer depending on the number of areas being treated. This hour does not include the time needed to get you checked into the procedural area and discharged.
For some procedures, your provider may use one of two types of anesthesia during your procedure.
Local anesthesia: Your provider will administer local anesthesia with more more injections near the site of the ablation. You may feel some pressure, movement and/or a slight burning sensation during the administration of the medication.
Mild Sedation: Your provider gives you sedation through an intravenous (IV) line in your hand/arm. The goal during ablation is to calm you if you are anxious and to help reduce the discomfort of the procedure. Sedation may make you drowsy but you will need to be alert enough to talk to your provider during the procedure.
If you do not want to receive sedation, please talk to your provider.
Preparing for your procedure
- Check with your health insurance company to verify whether the procedure is covered
- Arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure (regardless of you opting out of sedation or not). Your procedure will be rescheduled if you do not have a responsible adult driver present at the time of your procedure.
- Inform your team if you have any of the following:
- allergy to latex, iodine, local anesthetics or other medications
- recently had an infection and are currently taking antibiotics
- recently had a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in the last 2 weeks
- take blood-thinning medications (your health care provider that manages this medication may need to be involved in determining whether to stop taking the medication before the procedure).
- Use clear liquids to take any necessary medications up to two hours before your procedure.
- Take a bath or shower the morning of your procedure
During your procedure
- You may be asked to change into a gown prior to being escorted to the procedure room where a team of individuals will be waiting for you
- The procedure may use fluoroscopy (special type of X-ray) to assist in visualizing your anatomy
- You will be positioned on the procedural table. Depending on the location of the injection, you may be asked to lie face down, on your back, or on your side.
- A team member may:
- place a sensor on your finger to monitor you pulse and oxygen level (in some cases, oxygen may be placed under your nose)
- place electrodes on your chest or back to monitor your heart rhythm
- place a blood pressure cuff on your arm
- Sedation will be injected through your IV
- A team member will clean the injection area with antiseptic swabs and place sterile drapes against your skin around the procedural area. please note that these materials may stick to your skin.
- Your provider will inject anesthetic medication in the procedure area to numb the skin and tissue where the procedure needles are inserted. You may experience an uncomfortable burning sensation during the local anesthetic injection.
- Once the area is numb, your provider will insert needles near the nerve(s) causing the pain. Radiofrequency impulses are introduced to the area through the needles. Your provider will ask questions during the procedure to maintain safety.
After the procedure
- After the procedure you will rest in a recovery location until discharged to home/self-care. Typically the recovery period is 30 minutes.
- You may resume your usual diet as you are comfortable
- You may resume your medical plan as discussed with your provider (includes but not limited to: medications, physical therapy, or exercise, and any previous restrictions on activity).
- You may shower whenever you want. Swimming pool, bathtub, hot tub and whirlpool use should wait 2 days.
- DO NOT DRIVE FOR THE REST OF THE DAY
- DO NOT use heating pads or any other form of heat on the injections site for 48 hours
Seek emergency care
- Bleeding from the procedure area that does not stop after applying pressure for 10 minutes
- Temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) or higher
- Injection site becomes red, swollen, tender or warm
- Fluid drains from the injection site
- Injection site has an odor
- Signs of allergic reaction (rash, throat swelling, difficulty swallowing, wheezing or difficulty breathing, itching, nausea and vomiting, light-headiness)
Connect with Patients like you:
Sites providing this service:
- Phoenix and Scottsdale, AZ: 480-301-8000
- Jacksonville, FL: 904-953-2000
- Austin, MN: 507-433-5758
- Mankato, MN: 507-594-4700
- Red Wing, MN: 507-267-5000
- Rochester, MN: 507-284-2511