The spine is connected, at different levels, by face joints that are fed by smaller branches of the large spinal nerves. These nerves are called medial branch nerves and they carry pain signals from the joints to the brain. Patients with degenerative disc conditions, arthritis and a history of trauma usually experience a lot of pain from the facet joints. In order to manage this pain, anti inflammatory steroids or local anesthetics can be injected to the joint directly. However, when the injections are repeated severally and the pain is still recurrent, other treatment options are explored.
Radio frequency application of the median branch nerves is a safe procedure that can provide pain relief for six months to a year. The radiofrequency ablation produces heat which disrupts the ability of the nerves to transmit pain signals to the brain. It takes the nerve about six months to one year to regenerate and be able to send the pain signals to the brain again. Radiofrequency ablation has been known to cause pain relief for up to two years among some patients.
Advantages of radiofrequency application of median branch nerves
- Radiofrequency ablation causes more significant and durable pain relief as compared to the conventional steroid injections used
- There are very few cases of complications or morbidity from using radiofrequency ablation
- Patients can also avoid surgery which has its own challenges
- The procedure has a very short recovery time and patients can enjoy a greater range of motion
- It lowers the need of using painkillers
- Radiofrequency ablation greatly improves the quality of life of the patient
Radio frequency application of median branch nerves applies heat to nerve pathways and literally shuts off the transmission of signals. This outpatient procedure only needs mild sedation and local anesthetics since it is a minimally invasive procedure. Radiofrequency ablation has a very high success rate.
- Preparing for the procedure
The doctor has to confirm diagnosis by ensuring that the patient has had two successful medial branch blocks. A health history check including information on current medication, drug allergies and health conditions has to be carried out as well. Patients are advised to avoid taking aspirin, non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs and herbal remedies at least five days prior to the procedure.
Radiofrequency ablation is done when the patient is awake but under sedation. The treatment area is numbed using a local anesthetic and the doctor uses X-Ray guidance to inject the needle and electrode into the treatment area. The electrode passes a high frequency electrical current with heats up and lesions the nerve and the needle is then removed.
After the procedure
Radiofrequency ablation recovery is usually very fast. Patients can go home after as little as one hour but the time varies depending on individual experience. There may be some discomfort after the procedure but they can typically go back to work within 24 hours of the procedure. Pain decrease will occur gradually within several weeks. The nerve undergoes repair after some time and the pain pay return after one or two years. However, the same procedure can be redone safely with the same results as before.
Contact our Fort Lauderdale location for all info on Radio frequency applications