What Is Radiofrequency Neurotomy?
Radiofrequency Neurotomy (RFN) is a procedure in which Dr. Greenberg can ablate or cauterize a small nerve branch that causes a painful sensation from a specific structure, such as a joint capsule. RFN is an effective treatment when other diagnostic injections have identified specific structures, such as the facet joints in the spine, as the underlying cause of your pain. It is absolutely imperative that a firm and clear diagnosis of the source of the pain be made prior to using this treatment – otherwise it will not be successful. Very few nerves in the body can be treated using this technique.
What Does Radiofrequency Neurotomy Treat?
- Head pain (coming from the upper neck)
- Neck pain
- Low back pain
- Buttock pain
- Chronic knee pain unresponsive to other treatments, including surgery or knee replacement.
How Does Radiofrequency Neurotomy Work?
If a definitive diagnosis is established from diagnostic nerve blocks, Dr. Greenberg will perform an RFN by carefully placing a specially designed needle right on the target nerve. This is done under careful fluoroscopic X-ray imaging guidance. The needle tip is connected to a generator that uses radiofrequency energy to generate heat and cauterize or disrupt the nerve causing the pain. Following the procedure, the nerve can no longer transmit pain signals from the pain source to the brain, and the pain will resolve. Usually, multiple nerves have to be treated for the procedure to work. The special design of the needle allows for the energy to be highly focused and controlled, avoiding potential side effects or complications if other areas are heated.
What Should I Expect from Radiofrequency Neurotomy Treatment?
Some people experience immediate relief, although more commonly it can take up to three weeks until full relief occurs. Generally, there may be some soreness at the site that lasts for about 24 hours, and can be treated with application of ice and a mild analgesic such as Tylenol. The ablated nerves can regenerate after an RFN and your pain may recur, though in some instances the pain never reappears. Typically, it will be between three months to over a year for any recurring pain to materialize, and if this happens we can repeat the RFN without the diagnostic nerve blocks.
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