How Radiofrequency Ablation Works

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) treats the tissue that is causing pain. During the procedure, an electrode-tipped catheter is inserted into the body and then energized with radio waves. The heat generated by the energy destroys the targeted nerve or tissue, resulting in a decrease or complete cessation of the pain signal it sends to the brain. RFA can be used to treat conditions such as: 

  • Chronic lower back pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • Cancer-related pain 
  • Chronic pelvic pain

The procedure begins with administering numbing medication around where the doctor will place the catheter. The doctor uses ultrasound imaging to ensure the accurate placement of the catheter. Once the doctor inserts a catheter and positions it correctly, an electrical current will heat the targeted tissue. The heat generated from this current destroys the targeted nerve tissue and prevents it from sending pain signals to the brain. This process may take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the treatment area.

RFA Benefits and Risks

RFA can provide immediate relief in some cases, while other patients may need multiple treatments or a combination of treatments for optimal results. Recovery time largely depends on the extensive procedure and the extent of tissue damage during treatment. Some people can return to their normal activities within two days, although others may need up to a week or more before they’re back at full strength.

Also, discussing the risks and benefits of RFA with your doctor before the procedure is crucial. Although it’s generally a safe and effective way to treat pain, some potential side effects include infection, bleeding, or damage to nearby organs. Your doctor can help determine if RFA suits you and address your concerns.

Overall, radiofrequency ablation provides a minimally invasive approach to treating chronic pain. Destroying targeted nerve tissue helps stop your body from sending pain signals to the brain. Talk to your doctor about whether RFA may be an option for relieving your pain symptoms.

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