Chronic pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. Treatment options include conservative treatment with physical therapy, massage therapy, bracing, epidural injections, and opioid prescription pain medications. Eventually many patients seeking pain relief undergo surgery.
Patients treated with fluoroscopic guided radiofrequency ablation achieve meaningful improvements in pain that are often sustained for months and up to two years in some cases. Studies report that more than 70% – 80%of patients find pain relief with this procedure. Radiofrequency ablation is safe and effective minimally invasive treatment for the temporary relief of pain caused by orthopedic conditions when nonsurgical treatments have failed to relieve pain and improve function.
What is radiofrequency ablation (also called a rhizotomy)?
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive interventional pain treatment that uses radiofrequency energy (heat) to temporarily interrupt the transmission of pain signals to the brain by creating lesions in the sensory nerves that are causing chronic pain. Over time the nerves grow back. The procedure can be repeated when the pain returns.
Which kinds of pain can be treated with radiofrequency ablation?
- neck pain and pain that radiates into the upper back, shoulders, and arms
- back pain and pain that radiates into the hips, buttocks, or legs
- pelvic pain
- degenerative disc disease
- peripheral nerve pain that results from damage to nerves outside of the spine that causes weakness, numbness, and pain usually in the hands and feet,
- arthritic joint pain including pain from knee arthritis.
Why would a patient seek radiofrequency ablation?
This minimally invasive procedure can help you to decrease the need for pain medication; and avoid or delay surgery.
What is the procedure?
Radiofrequency ablation is an outpatient surgical procedure performed while the patient is awake, but often the patient will receive oral, or IV sedation for comfort. The patient lies face down on a special x-ray table and receives injections of local anesthetic to numb the area(s) where the radiofrequency electrode – a thin hollow needle – is to be inserted.
Under fluoroscopy, your Ortho Illinois interventional pain management specialist will be able to see the insertion of the electrode and accurately place it on the sensory nerves to be treated. The radiofrequency current is passed through the hollow needle to create the lesions that interfere with pain sensations. Treatment times vary but can last between 30 minutes up to two hours depending on the areas to be treated.
What can you expect after radiofrequency ablation?
Common side effects include swelling and bruising at the treatment location which should last just a few days. Over the course of the next ten days to two weeks, the patient may experience discomfort, burning, or hypersensitivity and muscle spasms in the treated areas, which will resolve as the ablation begins to provide pain relief.
When happens before radiofrequency ablation is offered?
Radiofrequency ablation may be offered when your Ortho Illinois orthopedic surgeon has diagnosed the cause of your pain from physical exam, and imaging studies, and they perform a fluoroscopically guided epidural steroid injection to identy and confirm the source of your pain. The success of an epidural steroid injection to relieve pain establishes the target for radiofrequency ablation.
If you or a loved one has an orthopedic condition that is causing chronic pain, contact Ortho Illinois to schedule an appointment to discuss whether radiofrequency ablation is a good option for you.
Ortho Illinois is an orthopedic practice that specializes in finding solutions for our patients with chronic pain, to improve their quality of life and function. Ortho Illinois is the leading bone and joint provider in Northern Illinois. We have offices in five convenient clinic locations. Call us to find a location near you and begin your journey into top quality, one-stop, multi-specialty orthopedic care.