Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency Ablation

by Alex Hirsch (SU)

For someone living with chronic back, neck or degenerative joint pain, finding any sort of relief can be a full-time job. If it seems like you have exhausted your pain management options, you may want to consider radiofrequency ablation, a chronic pain management tool that is changing people’s lives.

What is Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation – RFA – is a minimally invasive outpatient pain management and relief procedure that uses an electrical current that is produced by a radio wave to destroy enough of the nerve tissue of the affected area to decrease the transmission of signals to the brain.

What to Expect during RFA

The process starts with your orthopedist first identifying the nerves that are transmitting the pain; the first test will be a nerve block which involves numbing certain nerves in a process-of-elimination effort to determine which nerves are the culprits. Once the nerves are identified, your orthopedist will perform the RFA procedure by administering a sedative, then numbing the affected area with an anesthetic. Your orthopedist will then use a fluoroscope to guide the RFA needle to the affected nerves, particularly the medial or lateral branch (the former transmits pain from the joints; the latter transmits pain signals to the brain). Once the tip of the RFA needle is in the right place, an electrode is inserted through the needle for the electric current to reach the target nerve. At this point heat will subdue the affected nerves – your orthopedist will repeat the process if more nerves are affected. Success can be measured once the anesthetic wears off:  if there is a reduction of pain in that area you will know if the correct nerves were targeted.  

Is RFA Right for Me?

Depending on where your pain is located and the nature of your condition, your orthopedist may recommend RFA to help you manage your pain. As a rule, RFA is most commonly recommended after all other non-surgical and surgical methods for pain relief are exhausted. Because it is safe and non-invasive, RFA may be a welcome option for those who have struggled with chronic pain for a very long time. It’s important to note, however, that not everyone who suffers from chronic pain can benefit from RFA; it’s usually one of the very last methods recommended by doctors for pain management. Only an orthopedist can tell you if RFA is right for you.

RFA in St. Peters and O’Fallon

If you are interested in learning more about RFA and whether you are a candidate, Advanced Bone & Joint’s Dr. Brian Meek is a board-certified, fellowship-trained pain management physician with years of experience performing RFA. Dr. Meek and his colleagues are conveniently located in St. Peters and O'Fallon, Missouri and want to work with you to bring relief for your pain. Don’t let chronic pain stop you in your tracks, call Advanced Bone & Joint today at (636) 229-4222 or request an appointment online now.