Radiofrequency Ablation is a procedure also known as Radiofrequency Neurotomy or radiofrequency lesioning. It is minimally invasive and offers relief to pain on various instances. Different clinical studies have shown that RFA can reduce pain significantly in terms of frequency and severity for a period ranging from one to two years.
The procedure is not an intricate one and merely involves application of heat to a particular nerve pathway, thereby intercepting and cutting off pain transmission to the brain. Radiofrequency Neurotomy is principally an outpatient procedure done under local anesthetic and mild sedation. The success rate is high and, unlike open surgery, complications are minimal.
1. Indications Of Radiofrequency Ablation
Various chronic and painful conditions are effectively managed through radiofrequency ablation. Common conditions associated with back pain such as facet joint pain and sacroiliac pain can be treated using this procedure. Other conditions include neck pain and aching associated with joint degeneration in arthritis.
In such conditions, the pain is caused by various pathologies, including joints, muscle or the connective tissues. The resulting pain travels to the brain via the pain pathway in the medial branches of the spinal cord. It is, nonetheless, important that a diagnosis is made for the cause of pain before radiofrequency is administered as therapy.
One of the benefits of radiofrequency ablation is pain relief that lasts longer compared to other remedies in existence. This relief may last up to 2 years. Radiofrequency ablation is not associated with many complications, and the risks of undergoing the procedure are relatively reduced. The morbidity rates in Radiofrequency ablation procedures are indeed very low.
Radiofrequency ablation is very effective especially in treating back pain. This is quite advantageous given that nearly half of all people suffering from back pain do not benefit from surgery. The procedure confers a greater range of mobility and motion compared to procedures such as surgical intervention and has a relatively shorter recovery time.
All factors considered, radiofrequency ablation leads to improved quality of life since it leads to lower use of analgesics and a protracted period of pain relief.
3. Safety Of The Procedure
The procedure has been shown to be effective in managing pain. It has also been approved as safe and is generally well tolerated. It does not come with an elevated risk of complications. The only concerns that some patients experience are infections and bleeding at the site of insertion during the procedure.
4. Success Rate
Like any medical procedure, the success rates of radiofrequency ablation will vary based on factors limited to the patient as well as well as factors not associated with the patient. Typically, up to 50% of radiofrequency ablation patients are relieved of back pain for about two years. The remaining 50% will experience pain relief but for short periods.
There have been reports of patients who do not get any relief from radiofrequency ablation. The overall success of this procedure is greatest in management of cervical spine pain. Generally, radiofrequency ablation is very effective in treating pain for 9 to 14 months or longer. After this period, nerve regeneration occurs, and pain may come back.
The procedure does not produce any major adverse reactions in the body. The only commonly reported side effects are swelling and discomfort. Some patients have experienced swelling at the site of radiofrequency treatment that may be accompanied by bruising. The swelling and bruising, nonetheless, do not last and tend to disappear a few days after the procedure.
Just like any other medical procedure, not everyone can comfortably undergo radiofrequency ablation. Anybody with a bleeding condition or an active infection is not recommended for the procedure. Your doctor is the best person to advice on whether or not you qualify for a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
7. Preparations For The Procedure
Your doctor should guide you in all the preparations that you should do in anticipation of a radiofrequency ablation procedure. The preparations generally include:
- A fast of not less than 6 hour prior to the appointment. One may, nonetheless, take clear fluids.
- For a diabetic patient, the insulin dose ought to be adjusted.
- Any other medication being taken at the time must be brought to the attention of a doctor.
- Find someone to drive you home after the procedure
8. What Happens During The Procedure
One is examined by the doctor and the procedure explained. An IV line may be inserted, and local sedative administered. One may also get a mild sedative. A small needle is then inserted in the areas where the pain is present. The needles are inserted guided by x-ray for better precision. A microelectrode is then inserted through the needle and the stimulation process started. During the procedure, one is periodically asked if they can feel any tingling sensation. A small radiofrequency current is then sent through the electrode.
9. After the Procedure
After the procedure, one may be sent to the recovery room where the blood pressure and heart rate are monitored. A bandage is also placed over the injection site. One may then get a beverage as the discharge instructions and protocols are reviewed. The patient is finally released to go home.
10. Activity After Radiofrequency Ablation
After successfully going through this procedure, one may return to normal routine, albeit with the following restrictions:
- One should not operate machinery within a 24-hour window after the procedure.
- One should avoid strenuous activity within the first 24 hours following the procedure.
- One should not take a bath within the first two days after the procedure. Nonetheless, it is okay to shower.
One may, however, return to the normal diet, and the bandages can be removed that evening before sleeping.
The procedure is effective against chronic back pain, especially in the lumber region, and the cost is quite manageable. It is a huge relief for pain, thus alleviating the need for injections for back pain or even epidural steroid injections. With proper medical support and a competent doctor, the procedure should offer pain relief for well over two years.