Spinal Injection 101 – Radiofrequency Ablation

Category: Injections | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Spinal Radiofrequency Ablation Injection

In an effort to provide our patients and information seekers with a better idea of what they can expect from some different injections, we’re putting together a collection of blogs on specific injection types. We’ve already discussed Lumbar Sympathetic Blocks, and today, we’re diving into radiofrequency ablation.

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency to disable painful or problematic nerves in the spinal area. Generally the procedure is performed in conjunction with a local anesthetic, mild sedation and the assistance of a fluoroscopy. The fluoroscopy, which is essentially an X-ray that is viewed in real time, allows the doctor to see exactly where the needle is located after it has been inserted.

Radiofrequency ablation is a helpful procedure that can treat problems associated with a nerve. Whether the nerve is damaged and sending frequent pain signals or it is being compressed by nearby structures, radiofrequency ablation can help provide relief. The sound waves work to heat up the tip of the needle, which is then placed on the problematic nerve, eventually disabling it.

How Is A Radiofrequency Ablation Performed?

Although your specific experience may be slightly different, here’s a general guide for what to expect during your radiofrequency ablation procedure:

  • An IV line is administered to help put the patient in a mildly sedated state.
  • The patient is placed on an operating table on their stomach, and the area above the injection site is cleaned, disinfected and numbed with local anesthetic.
  • The physician will guide the needle into the patient’s back with the assistance of a fluoroscopy.
  • A small amount of electrical current is carefully guided through the needle to assure the needle is in the correct location in relation to the problemed nerve and any other healthy nerves. This current will cause minor discomfort to ensure the right nerve is being addressed.
  • The targeted nerve is numbed so as not to cause pain when heat is applied.
  • Radiofrequency waves are introduced, which work to heat the tip of the needle. The surgeon than uses the heat to create a lesion on the nerve to disrupt its ability to relay pain signals.
  • The process is then repeated if more than one nerve is causing problems. After the subsequent procedure or if only one nerve was causing issues, the surgeon will remove the needle and place a bandage over the operation site.

If you have any questions about the procedure, or if you think it may be an option for your nerve issues, contact a spine specialist today.

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