Get on this radiofrequency
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure. RFA uses radio waves to send heat to small areas of nerve tissue to reduce pain. The radiofrequency waves ablate or burn the nerve fibers carrying pain signals to the brain. Patients with arthritis of the spine primarily benefit from RFA. RFA has the benefit of relieving joint pain without having surgery or taking pain medication.
How does radiofrequency ablation work?
RFA works by transmitting a current through a needle. The resulting heat destroys the specific portion of the nerve that transmits pain. The procedure takes approximately only 90 seconds to burn each site. Multiple nerves may be burned at the same time, making the process about 30-45 minutes long.
Understanding the RFA process
To start RFA, the doctor gives the patient a local anesthetic and mild sedative to minimize discomfort. The patient will still be awake to provide feedback during the procedure. The doctor will then insert a small needle into the area where the pain is being experienced. Using a fluoroscope, a real-time x-ray, the doctor will then direct the needle into the specific pain region. This may cause a little discomfort. Once the needle is placed, the doctor will administer a numbing medication. From there, the doctor passes a current through the needle to ablate the nerves.
Safety and side effects
RFA is safe and effective in treating arthritis. More importantly, the risk of complications is quite low, with only temporary side effects. These may be weakness or numbness, and swelling and bruising at the incision site. Other more severe side effects are infection and some minor bleeding. However, these cases are uncommon.
How effective is radiofrequency ablation?
The degree of pain relief varies depending on the cause and location of the pain treated. In some studies, at least 67% of patients report RFA as effective. Typically, pain relief from RFA happens within 10 days and will last from 6-12 months. In some cases, the relief can even last for years.
What happens after the procedure?
Since RFA is minimally invasive, the procedure does not require recovery time. The patient may continue a regular diet and medications. However, the patient will not be allowed to drive or do any strenuous activity within 24 hours. The patient is advised not to take a bath for 1-2 days after the procedure. Within a few weeks, there should be a significant difference in arthritis pain.
Consider RFA today
If other treatments such as therapy and pain medication fail to relieve arthritis, RFA may be the right procedure. By burning the ends of the nerves in the affected area, patients can feel serious relief. Consult with a physician to learn more about this procedure.