How Rhizotomy Differs from Radiofrequency Ablation

Rhizotomy and radiofrequency ablation are two common treatments used to manage chronic pain. While both procedures involve the targeted destruction of nerve fibers, they differ in several ways. 

Understanding Rhizotomy 

Rhizotomy is a surgical procedure that involves cutting or severing certain nerve roots. Doctors use it primarily to treat conditions like sciatica and back pain caused by disk degeneration. Rhizotomies are typically performed under general anesthesia and require an incision over the affected area to access the nerves. This procedure can be done as an open surgery or through laparoscopic techniques with smaller incisions near the spine. The goal of rhizotomy is to reduce or eliminate pain from the affected area by disrupting nerve signals between the spine and the brain. 

Understanding RFA 

Radiofrequency ablation is a relatively new, minimally invasive procedure using radio waves to heat nerve fibers. This heat temporarily causes the nerves to be disabled, reducing pain signals sent to the brain. Radiofrequency ablation is usually done with local anesthesia and does not require an incision. The effects of this procedure typically last from six months to one year before it needs a repeat. Doctors often use radiofrequency ablation to treat chronic neck and back pain associated with degenerative disc disease and facet joint syndrome. 

The Difference 

Rhizotomy and radiofrequency ablation are different treatments. However, both help healthcare providers manage the chronic pain associated with various spinal conditions. While both involve targeting nerve fibers and disrupting pain signals, they differ in terms of the techniques used and their effectiveness. Rhizotomy is a more invasive procedure that involves cutting the nerve roots. On the other hand, radiofrequency ablation uses heat to disable nerve fibers temporarily. Ultimately, your doctor will determine which treatment option is best for you, depending on your medical history and condition.