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Radiofrequency Neurolysis

Long-term Relief without Surgery or Downtime

Radiofrequency neurolysis is a procedure that provides long-term relief from back and neck pain generated by facet joints that have been damaged by arthritis or other degenerative changes, or from injury.

Radiofrequency neurolysis uses heat to desensitize specific nerves and interfere with their ability to transmit pain signals.

With the help of today’s technology, the pain specialists at the National Spine & Pain Centers are experts at performing this minimally invasive procedure that can help you regain your life.

Why do facet joints become painful?

The facet joints are the small joints located between each vertebra that provide the spine with both stability and flexibility. When a facet joint becomes inflamed or irritated (facet syndrome), pain signals from the facet joints travel along sensory nerves called the medial branches to the spinal cord and then to the brain.

Before radiofrequency neurolysis is considered, your physician may recommend either a facet joint injection, which targets medicine into the joint area, or a medial branch block, which places medicine near the nerves that feed a particular joint. Both of these procedures can be used to determine if the facet joint is indeed genera􀆟ng the pain. The injections may offer significant pain relief for some patients who may not require additional treatment. Radiofrequency neurolysis interrupts the sensory nerve supply to the involved facet joint through the use of thermal denervation. After applying a local skin anesthetic to the patient’s back, the physician uses fluoroscopy (x-ray) guidance to place special radiofrequency needles alongside the nerves that supply the inflamed facet joint. After testing to ensure that the needle is in the correct position, thermal energy is applied and the nerve is deadened.

What is Radiofrequency neurolysis?

Because it is effective for long-term relief, radiofrequency neurolysis is used to prolong the benefit sustained by facet joint injections or medial branch blocks. Radiofrequency neurolysis is only performed once the facet joints have been precisely identified as a source of pain.

How long does it take?

Radiofrequency neurolysis is performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure typically requires 15 to 30 minutes, depending on how many joints require treatment. It is followed by 30 to 45 minutes of observed recovery me.

How often should this procedure be done?

Radiofrequency neurolysis or denervation is usually effective after one treatment. Nerves regenerate, but it often takes 6 to 12 months for this to occur. If necessary, the procedure may be repeated every 6 months to 1 year.

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 neurolysis typically provides relief for 6 to 12 months, and for some up to two years and beyond.

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