Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a procedure in pain medicine that uses a specialized device to reduce pain. RFA uses an electrical current produced by a radio wave to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, with the objective of decreasing pain signals from that area. Effective for many months to years, the goal of radiofrequency ablation is to prolong relief sustained by medial branch/facet blocks and other diagnostic procedures such as sacroiliac joint injection and genicular nerve blocks.
RFA is most commonly performed once the facet joints have been identified as the source of pain usually via medial branch/facet blocks. This procedure may decrease pain from the facet joints on a long-term basis.
This technique is used to provide long lasting pain relief for patients with chronic back pain, neck pain, arthritis pain, and other pain syndromes.
After local anesthetic is given over the desired area, a needle is placed through the numb tissue and the entire procedure is performed using fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance. Once the physician has guided the needle to the correct location where the patient is experiencing pain, an electrode is introduced through the needle. RFA causes nerve destruction (also called ablation) through heat; the destruction of surrounding pain fibers thereby decreases the patient’s pain.