Facet Radiofrequency Thermocoagulation
If you have consistent back or neck pain and you are unaware of where this pain originates from, you may be recommended a facet radiofrequency thermocoagulation. The purpose of this procedure is to determine whether the pain you are experiencing originates from your facet joints. The facet joints are small joints that connect your spinal bones. The injection may help to relive pain, in which case your facet joints would be deemed the source of the pain.
You will generally be offered this procedure if you have already had a facet joint injection. The radiofrequency thermocoagulation will provide longer term pain relief than an injection.
What are the risks with a Facet Radiofrequency Thermocoagulation?
Side effects from this procedure tend not to be severe, and mostly temporary. It is possible you may experience weakness in your legs due to the lower back injection, or sore skin around the injection area. Due to the heating involved in the procedure, you may feel small burns from the needle entry.
How to prepare for a Facet Radiofrequency Thermocoagulation
Before the procedure the doctor will make sure you feel as comfortable as possible. The doctor will tell you which medicines you should either stop taking, or take, in the days leading up to the surgery.
You will also be instructed regarding eating or drinking prior to the surgery. You will have time to ask as many questions as you like to your surgeon on the day.
What will happen during my surgery?
This procedure is a day case and doesn’t take long. The doctor will clean the area of injection as you lie on your front. You will have local anaesthetic so that the area is numbed to any pain. The surgeon will guide the injection to the facet joints in the affected area using imaging equipment (such as x-ray/CT) to help them find the correct spot. When the needle is in the right place, the surgeon will start to apply radiofrequency waves that will heat the needle so it can destroy nerve endings.
Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation
If you’re living with neck or back pain that simply won’t go away, a Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation could help you finally find the relief you’re looking for, so that you can take back your life.
What is Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation
For many patients, the source of their pain is the facet joints in their spine. These bony protrusions allow your spine to move, twist, and bend. Yet, they can become injured or damaged through degeneration, leading to inflammation and an increasing level of pain signals along the medial branches of your spinal nerves.
Bending backward, looking up, or twisting can result in worsening of your symptoms, including the pain you feel.
In Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation, your expert pain physician uses radio waves to destroy the nerve fibers that carry those pain signals along your medial branch nerves to block the pain and help you achieve relief. The high-frequency electrical current that is used ablates or “burns” a small area of nerve tissue for long-lasting pain control.
What Can I Expect During the Procedure?
Before scheduling a Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation, the doctor is likely to recommend a diagnostic procedure, called a Medial Branch Block, to determine whether ablation can provide the relief you’re looking for. A Medial Branch block uses long-acting anesthetic to temporarily halt pain signals from your medial branch nerves and confirm your facet joints as the source of your pain.
Prior to your ablation, you may receive an IV and sedative medication to keep you comfortable. During your procedure, you lie on an x-ray table and the doctor will give you an injection of numbing medication to minimize your discomfort.
You pain management specialist will then insert a very thin, hollow needle under x-ray guidance into the area responsible for your pain and inject contrast dye to confirm the location. Once the proper positioning has been confirmed, additional numbing medication is injected and the radiofrequency current is passed through the needle to burn the nerves responsible for your pain with expert precision in order to halt the pain signal. Most patients report feeling a “pressure” sensation during the procedure.
Depending on the number of facets involved in your pain, multiple nerves may be burned during the same procedure, which typically lasts between 20 and 45 minutes.
What Happens After My Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation?
Once your procedure is completed, you are moved to a recovery area where you will rest and be monitored for about 30 minutes. At discharge, you will need someone to drive you home.
Although you can take a shower, you should not sit in a bath for 48 hours. It’s also important to avoid strenuous activity for the rest of the day. Since the procedure is minimally invasive, your downtime is minimal and you will quickly be able to return to your normal levels of activity.
What Are the Results?
Some patients experience immediate relief following a Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation but in general, you can expect to feel relief from your back or neck pain within 10 days to three weeks. The relief you achieve from your ablation procedure can last from nine months to more than two years, making it a safe, effective way to get back to the activities you love.