FAQ’s on Radiofrequency Ablation in Las Vegas and Henderson NV

Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment option for nerve pain that is minimally invasive. This procedure does not require being put to sleep (general anesthesia). The pain management specialist targets the medial branch nerves along the posterior region of the spine, as well as the ganglion impar nerves (near the tailbone) and the sphenopalatine ganglion nerves (back of the throat).

What conditions can be treated using radiofrequency ablation?

  • Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat:
  • Peripheral neuropathies
  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
  • Headaches
  • Sympathetically-mediated pain
  • Neck and back pain
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

What happens before the radiofrequency ablation?

Because minimal bleeding is expected with the procedure, you must notify the doctor of all your medications. Blood-thinning agents must be held for several days beforehand. When you arrive at the pain management facility, a nurse will go over the benefits and risks of the radiofrequency ablation procedure, and have you sign a form of informed consent. After you change into a procedure gown, the nurse places an IV catheter in your arm. Because a sedative is often given, bring someone to drive you home.

How does the doctor perform the radiofrequency procedure?

Depending on the site targeted, the doctor will position you on the treatment table. For nerves of the back, the skin is cleansed with an antiseptic solution, and a numbing agent is used to anesthetize the area. Using real-time x-ray, the procedure needle is positioned near the nerves, and electrical current is passed onto the nerves using a special prob. This heat disrupts the nerve’s pain signal transmission ability, and destroys portion of the nerve root. Once the needle is removed, a bandage is secured over the site.

What should I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, the patient is monitored by a nurse for around 30 minutes. You are not permitted to soak in a tub or pool for several days following the radiofrequency ablation. We recommend that you rest for around 2 days, and gradually return to usual activities as tolerated. Because the injection site is sore, use ice packs for 20-minute intervals to relieve pain and decrease tissue inflammation.

What side effects and risks are associated with the radiofrequency ablation?

After these procedures, many patients report a superficial burning over the area that is hypersensitive (feels like a sunburn). This may last for up to two weeks, but usually resolves over 4-6 days. This usual side effect is related to the nerve irritation that occurs with the procedure. Risks associated with the procedure include nerve damage, infection, bleeding, and blood vessel injury.

Is radiofrequency ablation effective for relief of chronic pain?

Full pain relief usually is noted within 2-3 weeks following the radiofrequency procedure. The nerves will regenerate after several months, but many patients enjoy long-term effectiveness. However, a few patients do report recurrent pain. Clinical studies show that pain relief lasts for around two years.

What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?

Research reports support the benefits of radiofrequency ablation. These are:

  • Greater range of motion
  • Long-lasting pain relief
  • Lower morbidity rates
  • Fewer complications
  • Short recovery time
  • Less pain

Resources

Arora R. Radiofrequency neuroablation in chronic low back pain. Practical Pain Management. 2005 March;18-20.

Boswell MV, Colson JD, Sehgal N, Dunbar EE, Epter R. A systematic review of therapeutic facet joint interventions in chronic spinal pain. Pain Physician 2007 Jan;10(1):229-53

Burnham RS, Yasui Y. An alternate method of radiofrequency neurotomy of the sacroiliac joint: a pilot study of the effect on pain, function, and satisfaction. Reg Anesth Pain Med. 2007 Jan-Feb;32(1):12-9.

Dreyfuss P, Halbrook B, Pauza K, Joshi A, McLarty J, Bogduk N. Efficacy and validity of radiofrequency neurotomy for chronic lumbar zygapophysial joint pain. Spine. 2000 May 15;25(10):1270-7.

Fenton DS, Czervionke LF. Chapter 3 Facet Denervation. Image-Guided Spine Intervention 1st Ed. Saunders 2002; p 51-71.