Radiofrequency Ablation, Orthopedic Medicine, Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy Services in Honolulu, Hawaii

In cases where a patient’s neck or back pain is diagnosed as originating in the small facet joints of the spine and is chronic and unresponsive to more conservative orthopedic solutions, the orthopedic specialist may recommend pain relief in the form of radiofrequency nerve ablation therapy.

 

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The small nerves of the spine responsible for pain perception from these facet joints are called the medial branch of the dorsal root ramus. These small twigs of nerves found in pairs at each level of the spine send signals to the spinal cord and brain when the facet joint is irritated and inflamed with chronic arthritis. In some patients, these nerves transmit constant and chronic pain signals, often rendering them miserable and immobile from debilitating back or neck pain. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) from Portner Orthopedic involves the application of high frequency radio waves that essentially destroy the nerve endings with electrical currents.

Thanks to recent technology, the radio wave method of nerve ablation successfully replaced three previous methods that were more invasive and required longer healing times — cutting, cautery (heat) and cryo (cold) therapy. Radiofrequency ablation is often helpful for patients with a variety of painful orthopedic conditions, including sprains, strains, arthritis and spinal stenosis. This treatment is often recommended when other conservative pain management techniques have failed to reduce discomfort.

During RFA treatment, the doctor uses a small needle to target the pain source. Once the exact nerve endings are located, a microelectrode is carefully guided under fluoroscopic (X-ray) control. The nerve is gently stimulated to ensure that no other nerves will be destroyed. It is only then that the actual nerve ablation begins. You won’t feel a thing as the radiofrequency current heats the tissue and ablates the nerve endings, and a strong local anesthetic is injected into the area.

Results are temporary and typically last 6 – 12 months, although some patients will enjoy years of minimized or eliminated pain. Radiofrequency ablation has a high success rate and is associated with very few complications. Mild swelling and bruising are normal reactions and should subside within a matter of days.

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