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Radiofrequency ablations can be used to provide long term pain relief to many chronic pain conditions to certain areas of the body, like the back and knee. By applying heat to the tips of special needles, nerve signals can be interrupted from your areas of pain to your brain. This procedure may provide prolonged pain relief up to a year, and are typically used in combination with a multimodal regimen that can include physical therapy, medications, and other complementary therapies.
Radiofrequency Ablations Q&A
Q: What medications will be used?
For this type of procedure involving radiofrequency ablation, typically only local anesthetics will be used. Local anesthetics are numbing agents that work by blocking nerve signaling. By blocking nerve signaling , your brain is no longer able to interpret these signals, and essentially you are unable to feel pain! This will then allow us to apply heat to the appropriate nerve which can disrupt the nerve signaling for a much longer period of time, even up to a year!
Q: What is the process to get approved for a radiofrequency ablation?
Please note that you may have one or two test blocks prior to receiving a radiofrequency ablation. This may be a requirement of your insurance company. These tests are typically done with fluoroscopic guidance (live X-ray) to guide very small needles into place. A very small amount of numbing medication will be injected as a test block. Please note that this test block is very temporary, and it is normal to have your pain return within 24 hours! If your pain does go away initially and then returns, this does not necessarily mean that the injection did not work. Afterwards, you will be monitored and given discharge instructions. We encourage you to do activities that you have trouble with in order to test your response to this test block. If you have a successful test block, then we will be able to move forward with the radiofrequency ablation, which can provide much longer pain relief up to a year.
What is the radiofrequency ablation procedure like?
Our staff will help position you for your radiofrequency ablation procedure. Depending on the location of your procedure, we may have you sitting up, laying down on your back, or even laying down on your stomach. We will clean off your skin with some cold soap, which is very important to prevent infection. You will receive some numbing medication on the skin that will help prevent pain with the procedure. The doctor will then use either X-ray pictures to guide the needles into place. We will then send some electrical currents to confirm our needle positioning and ask you a few simple questions. Once confirmed, a very strong local anesthetic (numbing agent) will be injected to numb you up. Afterwards, heat will be applied to the specialized needle tips for a couple of minutes. Once the needles are removed, we will then transfer you to a postprocedural area to monitor you and go over discharge instructions before letting you leave.
Q: Am I allowed to go back to work on the same day?
We recommend taking it easy for the rest of the day! Please take care and caution against any heavy lifting or vigorous activity for the rest of the day. However sometimes our patients will return to work the same day, as long as your job does not require significant physical activity. We also recommend using ice and taking over the counter anti-inflammatories (if you are approved to take these medications) for the next 24-48 hours as needed.