Radiofrequency Ablation

What is a radiofrequency ablation procedure?

A radiofrequency ablation procedure involves using an electric current to create an radiofrequency field that heats up the nerves responsible for a pain sensation. This is an effective method of pain relief for many chronic pain conditions of the neck, back, sacroiliac, hip and knee joints.

How is the radiofrequency ablation procedure performed?

A sedative will be given to make you more relaxed and you will lie on your back or front depending on which part of the body the procedure will be performed on. A numbing injection will be given over the skin and tissue with local anaesthetic with a thin needle. After that a radiofrequency needle will be inserted under x-ray guidance.

The radiofrequency probe will be placed through the needle and the pain specialist will then ask you about the sensation that you are feeling and will ensure that there is no current running down your legs. A radiofrequency current is then run through the probe to heat up the pain fibres responsible for your pain to destroy these fibres. After the procedure you will rest in the recovery for about an hour before going home on the same day.

How effective is the procedure and long long will it last?

The procedure can be very effective in giving pain relief. The duration of pain relief differs from person to person and depends on the condition. It can last from 6 months to a year depending on how fast the pain fibres grow back. In some cases, the pain relief can last for many years.

What are the risks if the radiofrequency ablation procedure?

The risks are very low. Uncommonly you may have infection, bleeding or nerve damage. Temporary side effects include bruising and increased pain from the inflammation, weakness and numbness. Occasionally there may be an altered sensation over the affected site which may be unpleasant.

What should I do after the radiofrequency ablation procedure?

Avoid driving and strenuous activities for 24 hours. You can return to normal activities the next day. A slow increase in activity level can be considered after 3 days.