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Radio-Frequency Ablation..What is it?

March 31, 2021

Many times, patients are scared to ask what a “RadioFrequency Ablation” is because of the fear of the unknown. This is a procedure that is very common in the interventional pain management world. It reduces pain by specifically burning nerves that innervate specific joints in the back and neck of the body that have become arthritic or painful in origin. Most patients who benefit from this procedure have already tried epidural injections and have degenerative and constant back or neck pain when sitting or standing. Interestingly, it can be used on the knees for continued pain after knee surgery as well. This is an outpatient twenty minute procedure with sedation if wanted for patient comfort, that hopefully will give relief for upwards of a year if not longer. As physicians, we do not immediately lesion the nerve, but instead do a series of diagnostic medial branch blocks with local anesthetic to isolate the correct pain generators. Once patients confirm over 80% relief, then the next step is the Radio-Frequency Ablation. This procedure involves placing needle tips near the nerves that cause pain under Xray guidance, and then the tips of the needles heat up to lesion the pain causing nerves. Prior to lesioning, there is testing of the sensory and motor nerves, and patients usually start to feel relief 7-10 days after the procedure with gradual improvements. The good news is the side effects are minimal besides the injection, as there are no incisions, surgery, or cortisone being injected! 

Amit Mehta, MD, MBA

Pain Medicine

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