Frequently Asked Questions about Radiofrequency Ablation
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation is an effective way to treat pain. In order to interrupt the nerve conduction for a longer period of time and provide relief from pain, heat is generated with the help of radio waves or electric current. The procedure can provide pain relief that lasts anywhere from a couple of months to close to two years. The results vary from patient to patient.
Do I qualify?
Patients that require radiofrequency ablation suffer from back or neck pain due to injuries or arthritis which have a direct impact on the facet joint. The procedure puts a block on all nerves that connect directly to each facet joint but it’s also used in RSD cases where the patient needs a temporary interruption in the supply of sympathetic nerves to a specific arm or leg. Sometimes radiofrequency ablation is performed on patients that suffer from certain types of abdominal pain, or have other unusual conditions such as occipital neuralgia or pain associated with a degenerative disc.
In order to qualify for this procedure first you have to go through a procedure called a medial branch block that will help the Boulder pain management doctor tell if you are a good candidate. Usually before trying radiofrequency ablation, patients had gone through other more conservative methods of treatment such as physical therapy, chiropractic or anti-inflammatory medication.
How is the procedure performed?
Depending on the nerves that need to be blocked, the procedure can take from twenty minutes to an hour and it is performed under image guidance with a real time x-ray machine called fluoroscopy.
The initial stage is preparing the patient which implies the sterilization process with the use of antiseptic liquid to clean the skin on the back, while vital signs are measured by oxygen, blood pressure and EKG devices. With the help of fluoroscopy for better accuracy, the skin is numbed with local anesthetic, the needle is inserted while the nerves are identified using an X-ray that detects the presence of bony landmarks. A slight electrical stimulation is first performed to make sure the needle is not too close to an actual nerve root. Once that is assured, then the heat is applied to the area.
What are the benefits of radiofrequency ablation?
Considering that this procedure actually disrupts the nerve conduction from your pain source, radiofrequency ablation helps in reducing the pain and other related symptoms in more than 75% of the patients who chose this treatment. Even if the treatment fails in eliminating the pain that the blocked nerve controlled, it’s still helpful since it points out the fact that the pain is generated by a different area and doctors can further investigate the problem.
The top Northern Colorado pain centers, such as Colorado Clinic, offer both medial branch blocks and radiofrequency ablation. Most insurance is accepted at the three locations in Greeley, Loveland and Boulder. Call for the top back and neck pain management today!