Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), formerly known as rhizotomy, is a safe and effective treatment for pain along the neck and lower back, or the knee. At Bellevue Pain and Wellness, serving Seattle, Bellevue and Tacoma, Dr. Bowers is a board certified and fellowship trained in interventional pain management offering radiofrequency ablation.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation ( RFA ) , or rhizotomy or radiofrequency neurotomy is a minimally invasive procedure that can provide long term pain relief in patients with chronic neck, back, and joint pain. Radiofrequency energy is used to wound nerve fibers to interrupt the transmission of pain signals from your brain to the source of your pain. It disruption of this pain messaging pathway translates to long lasting pain relief. This procedure is completed in less than one hour, has very short recovery time, and is often covered by insurance.
Am I a good candidate for radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation can be used to treat neck pain, back pain, facet joint pain, sacroiliac joint pain ( sacroiliitis), and knee pain.
Patients with previous lower back fusion surgery and decompression surgery but have not had pain relief also benefit from this procedure. After a lumbar fusion, stress is transferred to the sacroiliac joint and that area can become arthritic. Generally patients who benefit from sacroiliac joint injections may be excellent candidates for a sacroiliac radiofrequency ablation.
The knee radio frequency ablation also known as the genicular RFA, works well in patients who have end-stage knee arthritis and have not yet had surgery or have already had a knee replacement but have ongoing chronic post surgical knee pain. Once the knee joint has been replaced with a artificial joint, there is no more joint space to inject with steroid. However the knee retains the nerves above and below which conduct pain from the knee to the spinal cord to the brain. Interfering with this transmission of pain signaling is an excellent way to greatly lessen the signals that causes unnecessary suffering.
Being evaluated for a radiofrequency ablation starts with a consultation. Our clinical team at Bellevue Pain and Wellness will evaluate a patient’s areas of pain and what other interventions they’ve tried in the past, as well as perform a physical exam on the affected area.
If a patient is deemed to be a candidate for a radiofrequency ablation, Dr. Bowers will proform a set of two diagnostic test injections using local anesthetic on different days to see if the pain is temporarily relieved. Some patients are excited to experience even 2 to 12 hours of pain relief from the diagnostic injections. This indicates a patient will benefit from radiofrequency ablation via innervation of the affected painful area.
What happens during radiofrequency ablation?
Dr. Bowers performs your radiofrequency ablation at the office. You may or may not receive pre-procedure oral sedation to help with relaxation but you will be awake for the procedure. You will lie on a procedure table and the areas will be prepped and draped. He will administer local anesthetic to numb the area to minimize discomfort during the RFA procedure. A specialized hollow needle is gently inserted and then moved to the target area under real-time imaging. After a series of testing to insurance maximum pain relief, radiofrequency energy is deliver through the needle to the affect nerve. The radiofrequency energy creates a small burn to the nerve which disrupts the pain signal.
What happens after radiofrequency ablation?
After the procedure, Dr. Bowers has you remain at the office for a short time to monitor you for stability before sending you home.
You will be able to walk after the procedure. You may experience some discomfort and soreness at the procedure site which may last for a few days to a week. Your pain should subside greatly over the next week if not immediately. Pain relief may last anywhere from 3 to 12 months with an average range of six months. It all depends on how quickly the nerves grow back, which varies patient to patient.
The RFA should not limit daily activities and you can return to work the next day.
Will my insurance pay for radiofrequency ablation?
Our staff will work with your insurance company prior to the radiofrequency ablation procedure to make sure your insurance will cover the procedure.
To learn more about radiofrequency ablation for chronic pain, call Bellevue Pain and Wellness or request an appointment today.