Pain Doctors in Atlanta Perform Radiofrequency Ablation to Relieve Pain
Radiofrequency ablation (also called RFA, rhizotomy, neurotomy, or fulguration) is a process wherein radio waves are used to ablate (burn and cauterize) hyperactive nerves that are transmitting excessive amounts of pain.
When treating chronic pain, pain doctors in Atlanta typically aim to uncover the root cause of the pain, which allows them to choose the most effective treatment method possible. But in some cases, the root cause of pain cannot be discovered, or it may be found to be a problem that’s difficult to treat. In these cases, radiofrequency ablation can be used to eliminate the source of the pain signal.
Once a nerve has been ablated, it no longer is able to send sensations of pain to the brain. This approach is often used in cases of chronic pain that is unable to be treated in other ways, such as arthritis.
At United Ortho and Spine, our orthopedic specialist has helped many patients find pain relief using radiofrequency ablation at our pain clinic in Atlanta.
What Happens During Radiofrequency Ablation?
Leading up to a radiofrequency ablation procedure, your doctor may request that you limit your use of certain medications, such as blood thinners. During the procedure, a small needle will be carefully placed next to the nerve that has been targeted. After a local anesthetic is injected, a brief warming pulse is sent through the needle using radio waves.
These radio waves can cauterize a nerve in as little as 90 seconds, meaning that a radiofrequency ablation session can be very quick. Depending on the number of nerves being treated, the entire process can take as little as 15-30 minutes.
Patients are often given a mild sedative during RFA. After the process, your doctor may ask you to stay on site for less than an hour to make sure there are no immediate complications.
What is Recovery Like After Radiofrequency Ablation?
While previous methods of nerve cauterization would require large incisions, heavy sedation, and a long recovery period, radiofrequency ablation uses little to no sedation and only a few very small (needle) incisions, and can be performed at your physician’s office as an outpatient procedure (meaning that you will be able to go home the same day). Because you may have taken a mild sedative medication, it is not recommended that you drive for 24 hours following the procedure.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Radiofrequency Ablation?
As with any treatment, there are some risks associated with radiofrequency ablation. Because the process of radiofrequency ablation actually destroys nerve tissue, there is risk of the wrong nerve being targeted. Nerve complications may arise in rare cases, such as inflammation of the nerve. A few days after the procedure, you may notice some numbness, tingling, or even a slight burning sensation. If this continues for more than a few weeks, talk to your doctor.
Who is a Candidate for Radiofrequency Ablation?
Because RFA involves injections, it is not recommended for individuals who have an active infection or certain blood disorders. Talk to your doctor before pursuing radiofrequency ablation if you are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant.