What Is a Facet Rhizotomy?

Category: Injections | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 20, 2016

Facet Rhizotomy

As we’ve discussed on the blog before, one of the conservative treatments we offer is a facet injection. These injections can provide temporary spine pain relief for a number of conditions. However, if a person is looking for a more permanent solution to their spine pain, and they are an ideal candidate, they may pursue what’s known as a facet rhizotomy for their spine pain. Here’s a closer look at the procedure.

Facet Rhizotomy For Spine Pain

For some patients with back pain, if facet block injections provide ample but temporary relief, they may be a candidate for a facet rhizotomy. The goal of the operation is to provide longer lasting relief by disabling the sensory nerve that connects to the facet joint.

The procedure involves placing a needle with a probe just outside the facet joint. The probe is then heated with radio waves and carefully administered to the sensory nerve running to the facet joint that’s causing pain. The radio waves deaden the sensory nerve, meaning the pain signals that used to travel through the nerve can no longer run up to your brain. A mild sedative is used to provide localized numbness, so while the typical patient remains awake for the operation, they do not feel any pain. You may however feel some minor tingling or pressure while the procedure is being performed.

Note: bilateral cervical rhizotomy can only be done one side at a time with 4 weeks in between.

After the Procedure

You may experience some minor to mild discomfort in the hours after the procedure. As the anesthesia wears off, you may deal with some soreness, bruising and swelling at the injection site. However, even if those symptoms arise, most patients can return to work or school the day after the operation unless your surgeon directs you otherwise. Many patients will be prescribed some sort of anti-inflammatory pain medications, and ice therapy is good if you begin to deal with any pain flareups. Discomfort will typically subside over the course of a few weeks.

Although the procedure is quite safe, there’s always the possibility of complications. You should contact your surgeon is you experience any of the following symptoms after your procedure:

  • Prolonged, intense pain
  • Fever/Chills
  • Loss of balance or dizziness
  • Leg weakness
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Bleeding or drainage at the surgical site

The procedure can be a great option for individuals with facet joint pain, but it’s not always a sure-fire solution. Roughly 50 percent of patients will experience full relief from their facet joint pain after a rhizotomy, meaning you may still have some minor discomfort long after the operation is over. This is why it’s important to find a surgeon who specializes in facet rhizotomy operations, as they can help provide better outcomes by totally disabling the painful nerve during the operation. For more information about the procedure, or to talk to a surgeon about your options, contact Dr. Sinicropi today.

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