Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a safe, minimally invasive procedure doctors use to reduce or eliminate pain caused by certain conditions. It involves using heat from high-frequency electrical currents to destroy or damage specific nerve tissues responsible for transmitting pain signals. Here’s how radiofrequency ablation works and how it helps reduce pain.
First, the procedure identifies the target nerves responsible for transmitting pain signals. Doctors do this using imaging techniques such as X-ray, fluoroscopy, or ultrasound guidance.
Before this procedure, the physician administers a local anesthetic to numb the area where they will insert the needle. And this ensures the patient’s comfort during the process.
The doctor inserts a thin needle near the target nerve or nerves with an electrode tip. Imaging techniques guide the precise placement of this needle to ensure accuracy.
Confirmation of the Placement
Once the needle is in the correct position, the doctor passes a small electrical current through it. And this causes a tingling sensation or muscle twitching, which helps confirm that the needle is near the targeted nerve.
Radiofrequency Heat Application
After confirming the needle placement, the physician applies radiofrequency heat through the electrode. The heat generated by the radiofrequency waves creates a lesion or destroys the nerve tissue around the electrode. And this disrupts the nerve’s pain signals, reducing or eliminating the pain sensation.
Multiple Nerve Treatment
In cases where multiple nerves are involved in causing pain, the doctor may repeat the procedure to target additional nerves.
After the procedure, the physician removes the needle, and the site is cleaned and bandaged. Patients are typically monitored briefly and can usually go home the same day. Some individuals may experience temporary soreness or discomfort at the needle insertion site.
The long-term effectiveness of radiofrequency ablation varies from person to person. For some individuals, the pain relief can last for months or even years, while others may experience a recurrence of pain sooner. If the pain returns, the doctor can repeat the procedure.
It’s important to note that radiofrequency ablation is not suitable for all types of pain. It is common for facet joint pain, sacroiliac joint pain, and nerve-related pain like trigeminal neuralgia or peripheral neuropathy. Patients should decide to undergo radiofrequency ablation in consultation with a healthcare professional who can evaluate the individual’s specific condition and determine the appropriateness of the procedure.