Radiofrequency ablation/lesioning, often abbreviated as RFA or RFL, is a medical procedure used in pain management. A radio wave produces an electrical current that heats up a small area of nerve tissue. This decreases pain signals from that specific area.
RFA can be used to treat patients with chronic low-back and neck pain and pain related to the degeneration of facet joints.
Is RFA safe?
RFA have proven to be a safe and effective way to relieve pain. It has very few risks and complications involved such as infection and bleeding. Its side effects may include swelling and bruising.
Who should not get RFA?
If you have an active infection or have a bleeding problem, you should not get RFA.
What should I do before RFA?
There are a few precautions that you should pay close attention to before the procedure. You should NOT eat within six hours of your scheduled appointment. If you take insulin, you should adjust the dosage of insulin the day of the procedure–Consult your primary care doctor to help you with the adjustment. You should NOT be taking blood thinners prior to the procedure—please call our office and/or consult your primary care doctor to help you with the adjustment.
You need to bring someone who is at least 18 years old of age, who can drive you home after the procedure.
How is the procedure performed?
You will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area(s). If you are undergoing the procedure at a surgery center or hospital, you may also receive some light sedation. Then, your physician will insert a needle into the target area under the x-ray guidance. A microelectrode is inserted through the needle. A small radiofrequency current is passed through the electrode to the targeted nerve tissue, and this causes the nerve tissue to heat.
What should I expect after the procedure?
You will need to get a ride home after the procedure. You should NOT drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours following the procedure. You should not take a bath for a couple of days after the procedure, but you may take a shower.
You may experience some discomfort in your back for up to 1-2 weeks. The results of the RFA generally take up to 2 weeks to have an effect.