What Should I Know About Radiofrequency Lesioning?

May 24, 2023

Radiofrequency lesioning is a minimally invasive option for treating chronic pain. This technique does not treat the cause of the pain; instead, it stops the pain signals from being transmitted from the source of the pain to the brain. Radiofrequency lesioning has many advantages over other methods of treating chronic pain. It requires only a single intervention, which provides long-lasting relief. Patients can often completely stop the use of analgesic medications after treatment.

What is Radiofrequency Lesioning?

Radiofrequency lesioning, also called radiofrequency ablation, treats chronic pain. Radiofrequency energy intentionally damages (create a lesion) specific nerves or nerve pathways responsible for transmitting the pain signals causing chronic pain. Radiofrequency energy is used to apply intense heat to the targeted tissues, destroying them. Once the pathway transmitting the chronic pain signal has been lesioned, the patient cannot feel the pain anymore.

What is it Used For?

Radiofrequency lesioning is used to treat chronic nerve-mediated pain conditions that are refractory to conservative treatment approaches. It is commonly used to treat:

  • Chronic neck pain
  • Chronic back pain
  • Facet joint pain
  • Chronic arthritis pain
  • Facial pain syndromes
  • Pelvic pain syndromes

What is the Procedure Like?

Radiofrequency lesioning is performed under local anesthesia; sometimes, patients are given light sedation. After cleaning the skin, the patient must lie very still while imaging techniques, such as ultrasound or fluoroscopy, are used to guide the placement of the radiofrequency electrode. The electrode is a thin needle-like device. It is inserted through the skin and advanced to the desired position.

The needle placement is tested by sending a small electrical current through the needle to stimulate the nerve. The patient provides verbal feedback to confirm that the correct nerve or nerve pathway has been targeted.

Then, radiofrequency energy is delivered through the electrode to damage the targeted area. This energy produces intense heat in the targeted area only. It does not affect any other tissues. The ablation procedure only takes one to two minutes.
The electrode is withdrawn, and the entry point is cleaned and covered with a sterile bandage.

Additional testing may be performed to confirm the lesion has produced the desired effect. If necessary, multiple nerve pathways may be targeted during the same procedure.

What are the Expected Outcomes?

Patients are usually observed for a period of time after the procedure to ensure all is well, and then they can recover at home. Patients can resume their normal activities the day after the procedure.

Close to 70% of patients experience immediate, complete pain relief. This pain relief usually lasts for months, although eventually, the nerves will regenerate, and the pain may return.

Side effects from this procedure are rare. The electrode insertion site can become infected, and there may be some temporary reddening and bruising around the insertion site. In general, radiofrequency lesioning is considered to be a safe and effective procedure.

If you or a loved one suffers from chronic pain, contact Haydel Spine Pain & Wellness to discuss whether you are a candidate for radiofrequency lesioning.

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