Nerve pain has been a problem that used to have doctors completely mystified. Disorders such as trigeminal neuralgia caused patients tremendous amounts of pain. In the past, there were not many treatment options available. After trying a variety of medications, procedures, and even surgeries, doctors have come up with a treatment option that has helped patients all over the world. This is called radiofrequency ablation. There are a few important points that you should know about a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
What Is a Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure?
This procedure was actually first invented back in the 1930s; however, it did not become widely available until much later. Now, thanks to technological advances, this procedure treats numerous conditions.
First, radiofrequency ablation can be used with other procedures, such as a medial branch block, to figure out exactly where a patient’s pain is coming from. Radiofrequency ablation uses specialized probes to figure out where nerve pain is coming from. Then, these probes deliver an electrical signal to disrupt specific nerve conductive abilities.
A doctor will deliver radiofrequency ablation using a needle. Then, the specialist will deliver heat to the site of the damaged nerves. In this manner, radiofrequency ablation treats numerous issues including:
Furthermore, this is a minimally-invasive procedure that can help patients avoid surgery while still effectively treating chronic pain.
Finally, patients should know that there are two types of radiofrequency ablation. These include:
Thermo-Coagulation: This procedure uses an electrode that heats to 50 to 80 degrees C for several minutes. The heat destroys pain fibers, providing effective pain relief. Some doctors call this continuous radiofrequency ablation.
Pulsed Radiofrequency: Instead of delivering continuous heat, this procedure delivers heat in pulses. Instead of destroying the nerve, this procedure stuns it.
What Conditions Can Radiofrequency Ablation Treat?
Thanks to new research, radiofrequency ablation treats a wider range of conditions than ever before. Some of the most common applications of radiofrequency ablation include:
- Headaches including migraine headaches and cluster headaches
- Various types of peripheral neuropathy, including those from diabetes
- Sympathetic pain syndromes
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Pain that develops following strokes
- Issues related to vertebral discs
In addition, there are chronic medical conditions that radiofrequency ablation can treat. These include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Dermatology conditions
- Pain stemming from varicose veins
- Various types of pain from cancer
- Arrhythmias of the heart
It is important for everyone to know exactly how radiofrequency ablation is performed.
How Is This Procedure Performed?
Unlike surgery, radiofrequency ablation is performed on an outpatient basis using a mild local anesthetic. In some cases, the doctor may use mild sedation to make patients more comfortable. This can also help patients remain still.
First, the doctor will ask questions about a patient’s medical history, collecting information on allergies and current medications.
Next, the doctor will sterilize the area along the spine to minimize the risk of infection. The doctor may also numb the skin by injecting a local anesthetic prior to performing a radiofrequency ablation procedure.
After this, the doctor injects a needle in the correct area. The doctor will use fluoroscopic guidance to position the needle properly for the procedure.
Once the doctor reaches the targeted nerve area, he or she will numb the nerve. Finally, the doctor will deliver a powerful heat source to halt the pain signals.
The entire procedure lasts about an hour and should provide immediate pain relief.
The Side Effects and Risks
As with any procedure, there are a few side effects and risks that patients should keep in mind. Some of the risks include:
- Bleeding following the injection
- An infection that could develop at the site of the injection
- Mild discomfort and soreness following the procedure
In rare cases, muscle weakness and nerve damage might result; however, with live imaging and proper sterile technique, these risks are minimal. Anyone who has questions or concerns after the procedure should contact the doctor immediately.
Contact MidSouth Pain Today To Learn More!
At MidSouth Pain, we strive to provide the latest treatment options for our patients. We work hard to provide our patients with numerous treatment options, allowing them to tailor their treatment plans to meet their individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about this procedure as well as our other treatment options!