What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a process that uses heat to stop the pain in the joint. An electric current warms a small area of nerve tissue to block pain signals to the brain. The waves ablate or burn the nerve endings specifically. This treatment provides long-lasting relief for persons with arthritic joint pain. RFA is a preferred method for joint pain sufferers looking to avoid surgery or strong medication.
How does radiofrequency ablation work?
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure and lasts approximately 1 hour. The doctor gives the patient anesthesia and then performs a special X-ray called fluoroscopy. A needle is then placed close to the nerve causing the pain. Once the doctor inserts the needle, a current passes through the needle to apply heat to the nerve. After a short check, the patient should be able to leave. A study done in 2018 revealed that this treatment was more effective than steroid injections for knee osteoarthritis.
How does RFA manage your pain?
This process does not treat arthritis joint damage but instead treats the pain. RFA treats conditions in large joints such as the knee or smaller joints like those present in the spine. It dulls the specific joint ache by placing heat on the nerves that are experiencing the pain. The current sent through the needle puts the nerve out of action. The nerves, however, can grow back as the method lasts nearly 6 months.
Possible risks of radiofrequency ablation
This type of treatment is safe and has limited risks. However, the following are risks that can occur, bleeding, possible lack of feeling in the area. After surgery, patients may also experience increased pain and slight uneasiness. More common is swelling at the injection sites, but this goes away with time. The risk with this surgery is minimal and has an easy recovery.
Is radiofrequency ablation effective long-term?
Nearly 70% of persons experience long-term relief. The treatment takes full effect within 1-3 weeks. This pain relief can last for approximately 6 months to 2 years, while for some persons, the pain relief can last indefinitely. However, the nerve can re-grow, and the person may need radiofrequency ablation again. RFA is not recommended for persons who have pacemakers or who are pregnant.
How to choose the best option
If someone has tried numerous treatment options for the pain without success, RFA may be the right choice. The doctor can prescribe personalized treatment plans for each person. This treatment helps with inflammatory arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Ask a doctor to find out if radiofrequency ablation is the right option for chronic pain.