Radiofrequency Ablation

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Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed at your doctor’s office.

Step-by-Step Procedure for Radiofrequency Ablation

RFA can be performed under local or mild sedation. If sedation is used, the patient is usually kept awake and conscious to an extent to be able to describe what they feel during the stimulation and lesioning of the nerve.

RFA involves the following steps:

The entire procedure usually takes about 15 minutes. It is advised to have someone drive the patient home after the procedure.

Radiofrequency Ablation Recovery

Immediately after the RFA, the patient is shifted to a recovery room for 15 minutes to an hour (if sedation was used) where his/her vital signs are continuously monitored.

Depending on the area treated, a superficial burning pain with hypersensitivity, similar to a sunburn feeling may be experienced. Sometimes a slight numbness of the skin over the same area may also be experienced.

A few precautions and tips for the first day or two after RFA are:

Pain relief after RFA is typically experienced 1 to 3 weeks after the injection. Patients may engage in regular activities but should let pain levels be their guide for the first few days before returning to normal activities. Since many patients have been deconditioned over many months or years as a result of their pain, physicians might prescribe a guided physical therapy regimen to allow them to increase their strength and activity tolerance in a safe manner.

The radiofrequency ablation treatment is a relatively safe and low-risk procedure. However, some people may experience certain side effects and/or complications from this treatment. It is advised to discuss the potential risk of developing any adverse reactions or side effects of RFA with a doctor prior to this treatment.

Side Effects of Radiofrequency Ablation

Immediately after radiofrequency ablation, the following side effects may be experienced:

Sometimes, these symptoms may feel like a sunburn in the treated area. While these symptoms may last for the first few days or weeks, they can be managed by resting, intermittently using an ice-pack over the sore area, and using topical or oral medications like Ibuprofen etc.

These symptoms are typically not severe, however, sometimes the pain may be troublesome and may last for several weeks. While these symptoms are less common in the mid and low back, they may be more common at higher levels of the neck. These side effects may be due to increased irritation of a nerve that was only partially damaged and may still possess some function.

The medial branch nerves control some small muscles in the neck and mid or low back, but the loss of these nerves usually does not cause any significant loss of motor function.

There may be a concern that without the ability to feel sensation through the treated nerves, an injury to either the neck or back may be caused. There is, however, no scientific evidence to support this concern.

Risks of Radiofrequency Ablation

Although rare, serious risks may occur during or after the radiofrequency ablation procedure. These risks may be associated with the RFA procedure or the sedation provided prior to the treatment.

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