The treatment of radiofrequency ablation is a process that involves the use of radio waves, along with electric current, to cause an error in the relay of pain signals from the nerve to the brain. This interruption in nerve conduction allows pain relief to be experienced by the patient, but radiofrequency ablation is used on an ongoing basis, as the transmission will start up again in after several months, and pain will occur again. The amount of time the treatment lasts and the effectiveness of the treatment depend upon each individual case, the cause of the nerve pain, and the patient’s overall health status.
According to recent research studies, around 70 percent of patients who receive radiofrequency ablation treatment experience a high level of pain reduction, which makes this a common therapy prior to more invasive procedures. In some cases, blocking the nerve with this treatment will allow the patient to determine the actual cause of the pain, as the block will allow pain to persist, which indicates that the nerve suspected is not the cause of the pain. This will eliminate unneeded surgical procedures.
Prior to using nerve-blocking treatments, patients could undergo several surgeries before finding the cause of the pain. However, both radiofrequency ablation and advanced imaging techniques have been combined as an effective way to find the area that is damaged the first time around, and this allows the doctor to give the right treatment needed to provide relief.
With radiofrequency ablation, pain relief is experienced for a period of three to nine months. However, some patients have experienced relief for up to 18 months, as the condition, amount of damage, and body’s ability to reverse the block can differ greatly from one person to another. The process of radiofrequency ablation only requires a short period of time to complete and is generally done within 20 minutes to an hour at most.
The physician providing you with the radiofrequency ablation will first position you correctly in order to get full range access to the area being treated, and then, different monitoring devices are used to keep track of certain body responses during the treatment. These include your oxygen levels and blood pressure. A small instrument is used to guide the initial needles (called the introducer needles) into the area that is being treated.
Once the needle is properly positioned, the device will begin to transmit the correct frequencies needed for treatment into the nerves. In some cases, the patient will feel an uncomfortable sensation, but most have stated that there is little to no pain associated with the treatment, other than a slight tingling sensation in the area.
Conditions Treated with Radiofrequency Ablation
Treatment with radiofrequency ablation is most commonly provided to patients who experience pain due to issues with the facet joints, which are located in the spine. When the facet joints are damaged from certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, the pain is generally present within the neck or back region. While this therapy is most commonly used for those with joint induced pain, it is also used for patients suffering from pain due to conditions such as:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Various neurological disorders
- Certain types of pain experienced within the abdominal area