Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) also called rhizotomy or neurotomy is a non-surgical technique of treating pain. This technique employs radiofrequency waves to generate heat and the heat produced then damages the pain nerves transmitting the signals to the brain. This procedure is performed to treat painful facet joints in the spine that usually cause chronic low back pain and neck pain.
Radiofrequency ablation treatment is considered only after it is confirmed that the cause of back pain lies in the facet joints and this is confirmed by performing a diagnostic medial branch blocks (the nerves that innervate the facet joints).
Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive technique. This procedure is performed under the guidance of fluoroscopy. The fluoroscope is a special kind of X-ray machine that helps doctors to visualize the placement of the needle.
During the procedure, your doctor will direct a special radiofrequency needle electrode close to the medial branch nerves. The needle tip is then heated so that the nerve gets cauterized and destroyed thereby reducing the pain. This procedure may last for up to 15 minutes. The pain relief may last up to a year or even permanently if the pain nerves never grow back again.