Learn all about radiofrequency ablation and how it can help rid your life of pain. Radiofrequency ablation treatment of the spine is a minimally invasive, highly advanced non-surgical pain treatment that can be very effective in the management of chronic spine pain. Painful facet joints from degenerative changes or trauma are a common cause of chronic back and neck pain. This procedure utilizes a highly specialized electronic device which produces a current through a needle that generates heat. The heat is used to ablate tiny sensory nerves near the facet joints that block pain signals.
Is it Covered by my Insurance?
Most insurance policies cover this procedure as long as certain criteria are met. Most require the spinal pain to have been present for at least three months and to have failed to respond to a course of physical therapy. You must also have had an adequate response to two separate diagnostic facet joint injections or blocks.
What are Diagnostic Facet Joint Injections/Blocks?
This procedure involves placing a needle in or near the facet joints that are located on the back part of the spine and placing a small amount of local anesthetic with or without cortisone medication.
Where is it Performed?
It is performed in our office procedure suite. We have a specialized fluoroscopy low-dose X-ray machine that allows visualization of the spine to help increase the safety and effectiveness of the procedure.
How Long is the Procedure?
The procedure typically lasts between 30–60 minutes depending on whether the pain is on one side or both sides of the spine.
Is it Painful?
Most patients can tolerate this procedure with local anesthetic only. A small amount of relaxant medication can be prescribed and taken 30–40 minutes before the procedure if requested by those with feelings of anxiety.
What is the Success Rate?
Approximately 70% of patients who undergo this procedure receive at least a 50% reduction in pain for a prolonged duration of time.
How Long Will It Last?
Most patients who undergo the procedure receive satisfactory pain relief for at least 9–12 months.
Can it Be Repeated?
Yes, as long as the pain relief lasts for at least 5–6 months. Most insurance companies will approve and cover repeat procedures up to two times per year.
What are Common Side Effects?
Major side effects or complications are very uncommon. Most people feel only temporary soreness for a few days. Only very infrequently do some people feel the soreness for up to two weeks or longer.
When Will I Start Noticing Pain Relief?
Most start noticing pain relief within 1–2 weeks; however, for some, it may take up to one month.
Will I Further Injure my Back if I Can't Feel the Facet Joints Anymore?
No. Other areas of the spine are closely connected with nerves that let you know when you may be overdoing it.
Is There Any Harm in Repeating the Procedure Multiple Times?
There is no known harm or adverse effect of repeating this procedure over time. The sensory nerves will regenerate over time, and repeat procedures are usually effective. This procedure has an excellent safety record and has been performed over many years.