Decreasing Pain Caused by Facet Joints in the Back, Neck, or Thoracic Spine
Effective for many months to years, the goal of the radiofrequency procedure is to prolong the relief sustained by medial branch blocks or facet joint injections. Radiofrequency neurotomy is only performed once the facet joints have been precisely identified as a source of pain.
The facet joints are the small joints located between each vertebra that provide the spine with both stability and flexibility. Facet syndrome occurs when one or more of these joints become inflamed or irritated.
What is radiofrequency neurotomy?
A radiofrequency neurotomy interrupts the sensory nerve supply to the involved facet joint through the use of thermal denervation. After a local skin anesthetic is applied, the physician uses fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance to place special radiofrequency needles alongide the nerves that supply the inflamed joint. After testing to ensure that the needle is in the correct position, thermal energy is applied and the nerve is deadened.
How long does it take?
Radiofrequency neurotomy is performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure typically requires 30 minutes, including preparation time. It is followed by 30 minutes of observed recovery time.
How often should this procedure be done?
Radiofrequency neurotomy or denervation is usually effective after one treatment. The procedure may be repeated every 6 months to 1 year, if necessary.
Radiofrequency neurotomy should not be confused with pulsed radiofrequency of the dorsal root ganglion, which is a separate procedure aimed to reduce pain caused from the spinal nerve roots.
What are the expected results?
Radiofrequency has been performed safely for many years with excellent outcomes. You may have a sore back or neck for one to two days. It is recommended that you take it easy on the day of procedure, but return to usual activities the following day. The benefit from this procedure will typically occur within 2 weeks. Successful neurotomy typically provides relief for 6 to 12 months, and for some up to two years and beyond.