Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has several uses in the medical field, but it is frequently utilized to relieve the pain associated with osteoarthritis of the neck or back. It may also be utilized in other painful spinal conditions.

If a patient visits a doctor complaining of neck or back pain, and he or she is diagnosed with spondylosis, or arthritis of the back, the doctor will typically order a treatment plan that is somewhat conservative: using acetaminophen or anti-inflammatory drugs, ordering physical therapy, and/or prescribing muscle relaxers.

For some patients, the conservative route is sufficient to end the pain and restore function and mobility. For others, this type of treatment plan offers little to no relief.

The next step in the care process often involves steroid injections, such as a facet block injection or an epidural steroid injection. These steroid injections typically offer greater relief, but sometimes, the results are relatively short-lived. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which damages the affected nerves to block the pain signal, may offer longer-lasting relief of neck or back pain from spondylosis or other conditions.

How RFA is Performed

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is minimally invasive, conducted through an injection rather than laparoscopic or open surgery. If a patient has chronic pain, the physician may determine that RFA is the best remedy for long lasting pain relief.

During the procedure, the doctor will use x-ray guidance to direct a special needle to carry electrical current into the affected nerve or nerves. The physician will typically inject anesthetic into the nerves (medial branch block) to relieve pain.

Once the nerves are numbed, the doctor uses the radiofrequency current in the needle to damage and destroy the affected nerves, more permanently interrupting the pain signal from the brain. In general, patients will experience some superficial pain or numbness around the area for a couple of weeks, but once the damaged nerves completely “die,” the patient should have significant pain relief.

Consulting with a Doctor

If conservative treatment has not been effective for treating your chronic neck or back pain, the doctors at Elite Spine & Orthopedics can talk to you about the risks and benefits of radiofrequency ablation to find out if RFA is right for you.

For an appointment, call (727) 807-3114. You can also review Frequently Asked Questions about this procedure in our Patient Resources tab.