Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)


Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area. RFA can be used to help patients with chronic (long-lasting) low back, neck, or knee pain. The degree of pain relief varies, depending on the cause and location of the pain. Pain relief from RFA can last from 6 to 18 months and in some cases, relief can last for years. In recent studies, more than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief (when patients have positive medial branch blocks).


An intravenous (IV) line may be placed in a vein in your arm before the procedure and a  local anesthetic and mild sedative may be used to reduce any discomfort during RFA. You may be awake during the process to aid in properly assessing the procedure. Ask your doctor about specifics beforehand. After the local anesthesia has been given, the doctor will insert a small needle into the general area where you are experiencing pain. Using X-ray, your doctor will guide the needle to the exact target area. A micro-electrode is then inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. The object of the stimulation process is to help the doctor determine if the electrode is in the optimal area for treatment. Once the needle and electrode placement are verified, the nerve is bathed in numbing medicine and a small radiofrequency current is sent through the electrode into the surrounding tissue causing the tissue to heat.


The main side effect of Radiofrequency Ablation, RFA is some discomfort including swelling and bruising at the site of the treatment as well as increased soreness sometimes lasting up to four weeks.


There are very few risks associated with RFA. Some patients experience some pain at the injection site which is normal and temporary. Rarely will a patient have infection, bleeding or nerve damage, which are slight risk factors. Patients with allergies to the medications to be injected should not undergo the procedure. Advise the doctor during the initial consultation of your current health condition.

If you are interested in more information, please call Tarpon Interventional Pain & Spine Care at 972-596-1059 to schedule a visit with one of our board-certified physicians.


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