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Pain Treatments

Thoracic Facet Joint Rhizotomy / Radiofrequency Ablation

Thoracic Facet Joint Rhizotomy / Radiofrequency Ablation

Generally speaking, if you have experienced pain relief from a nerve block injection, you may be a good candidate for radiofrequency ablation, also referred to as a rhizotomy. The term “ablate” means to burn the nerve which is causing you pain, eliminating the pain signals to the brain. Radiofrequency ablation uses an electric current to heat up a small section of the nerve that goes to the facet joint in order to stop the pain signal. This minimally invasive procedure can provide relief that will last for months for people with chronic pain due to arthritic joints.

The doctor will numb your skin with an anesthetic. Then, guided by an x-ray, he will:

  • Insert a thin needle into your neck and look at the placement under x-ray
  • Next, a small electrode will be inserted through the needle to the target location.
  • Before the burning is started, we use a process to test the needle placement to ensure that the correct nerve is being burned. A small electrical current is used to burn the nerve

Usually, the procedure takes 15-20 minutes and you can go home the same day.

Most patients have pain relief that can last from six to 12 months but does vary from person to person. If the treatment works for you, you can have this procedure performed every six months, but not earlier.

The risk of a complication from radiofrequency ablation is very low. Rarely, complications potentially include bleeding or infection at the injection site, localized numbness, neuroma, nerve pain or neuritis- which is unusual for this procedure.

Do not do any rigorous activity for the first day after your injection. Take it easy. You can return to your normal activities the next day. Do not drive the day of the injection if you have had any form of anesthesia. In most instances, the pain relief from the procedure will take approximately two weeks.

 You can continue your regular diet and medications immediately.

Your response after this initial ablation procedure will be a major deciding factor in determining whether a repeat procedure is to be performed in the future.

Not sure what treatment options are best for you?  Contact us today to see how we can help you.

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