Interventional Pain Management

Tests and Procedures


Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure to treat chronic neck and/or lower back pain (often resulting from arthritis). In this procedure, electric current created through radiofrequencies is used to stop nerves from sending pain signals that are causing you problems.

How Does Radiofrequency Ablation Work?

A medical professional will apply local anesthesia before injecting a small needle into the exact area of pain. A microelectrode is then guided through the needle, where it begins to heat up the targeted nerve tissue via radiofrequency current produced through the electrode.  Once the nerve is ablated, it will no longer send pain signals to the brain.

This procedure is performed under local anesthesia (instead of the patient being put under) in order for you to provide feedback on the procedure’s effectiveness. However, you should still only feel a mild level of pain or discomfort.

Radiofrequency Ablation is a Safe Procedure

Negative side-effects to this procedure are rare, although it is possible to develop bleeding or infection at the site where the needle is inserted. Additionally, patients with bleeding conditions are not great candidates for this procedure.  In order to make sure that the radiofrequency ablation is being completed correctly, it is examined under fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance.

After the procedure, you should have a fairly quick recovery period. It is recommended that you avoid stressful activity for at least 24 hours. You might experience mild leg numbness due to the local anesthesia that was administered prior to the procedure. This numbness should subside after a few hours. While this is normally an outpatient procedure, you should arrange for someone to drive you home.

Radiofrequency Ablation is Effective

Radiofrequency ablation is known to be a reliable and useful procedure, both for how much relief it provides and how long the relief lasts. In most cases, this procedure’s relief lasts from 1-2 years and over 70% experience a successful level of pain relief.

Preparing for the Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure

Before you undergo radiofrequency ablation, your doctor will discuss with you steps you must take prior to the procedure. They will discuss any current medications you are taking and will let you know if any adjustment is needed (this is more common with insulin treatments for diabetes). Additionally, you will not be able to eat food in the six hours prior to the procedure.