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Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a technique used to provide long-term relief for some types of chronic pain. RFA is most often used to treat back pain including pain in the lumbar, cervical, and sacroiliac areas, plus the intervertebral discs, dorsal root ganglion, and sympathetic ganglia. RFA may be used to treat spondylosis, complex regional pain syndrome, and peripheral nerve entrapment syndromes. RFA is also used to treat headaches including trigeminal neuralgia, cluster headaches, and chronic fascial pain.

What does it involve?
Before scheduling an RFA procedure, your doctor may test whether you are good candidate by performing a diagnostic nerve block.

If you and your doctor decide that an RFA is right for you, you can expect to be awake but sedated with intravenous medication during the procedure. You need to be alert enough to guide the doctor as they place the equipment.

The doctor will place small needles containing electrodes in the area where you experience chronic pain. RFA uses a high-frequency current precisely directed to destroy nerve tissue that carries pain messages to the brain. An RFA procedure usually takes about 30 minutes.

RFA is an outpatient procedure, and you will go home the same day after an observation period. You can expect to rest for one or two days after receiving RFA. Avoid driving during this time. You may feel more pain than usual for several days after the procedure. You will be given extra pain medication to take during recovery. It may take up to three weeks or longer before you experience pain relief from RFA.

The effectiveness of RFA depends largely on the condition being treated. Pain relief from RFA can last for as long as six months or even a year.

RFA may not be successful at reducing pain.

Pain relief from RFA is not usually permanent. You may need to repeat the procedure if pain returns.

Any surgery carries risks including blood clots, blood loss, infection, breathing problems, reactions to medication, and heart attack or stroke during the surgery.

Depending on the technique used for RFA, additional complications may include weakness, paralysis, meningitis, and intracranial hemorrhage (brain bleed).

There may be pain and inflammation during recovery from RFA.

For more details about this treatment, visit:

Cervical Block/Radiofrequency Ablation – Cedars-Sinai

Radiofrequency Ablation – Virginia Spine Institute

Lumbar & Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation/Lesioning – Interventional Spine & Pain

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