What is a knee radiofrequency procedure used for?
A knee radiofrequency procedure is used to treat knee pain especially those that are because of osteoarthritis. Knee replacement surgery can help but may not be suitable for all, because some patients have health problems or cannot afford time off from work. Younger patients may not be willing to undergo a major operation that involves putting a metallic implant into their body. A knee radiofrequency ablation or pulse radiofrequency may be suitable for them after a trial of physiotherapy, simple medications and rest. It helps them break out of a cycle of pain and disability.
How does a knee radiofrequency procedure work?
Targeting the pain fibres that transmit the pain signal from the knee to the brain reduces the amount of pain that you experience. We use radiofrequency energy to deactivate these nerves while preserving the important nerves that allow you to walk.
How is a knee radiofrequency procedure performed?
We perform a knee radiofrequency procedure as a minimally invasive day surgery procedure. We may admit you for physiotherapy or observation overnight but this is not usually necessary.
To start, we will set an intravenous cannula and give some sedation. We will then put thin radiofrequency needles around the knee under ultrasound or X-ray guidance. We will test to ensure that the needles are in the right place and start a radiofrequency current. Advances in technology have allowed for “cooled radiofrequency” currents to be applied which increases the success rate of the procedure. The procedure usually takes under an hour.
How well does this work?
Everyone’s body is different as is the location of the nerves that we try to target. The procedure can last months to years. We usually quote 6 months to 2 years as that is how long the nerves take to grow back in laboratory studies. We can repeat the procedure if pain recurs.
What are the potential side effects?
Rarely, the procedure can cause infection, bleeding or nerve damage. There might be transient bruising, an increase in pain from the procedure and changes in sensation over the knee that some might find unpleasant. On the whole, the procedure is very safe, a lot less risky than a total knee replacement, and sometimes may help you avoid a knee replacement surgery for years.