Radiofrequency (RF) Ablation
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a longer-lasting procedure done after diagnostic injections have confirmed where the pain is coming from. Most commonly, medial branch blocks or joint injections have been done prior, helping the physician determine that the pain is coming from a specific spot. RF ablation in the spine is named after the region in which the procedure is performed: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacral; but it can be done for specific nerves that go the major joints, like the knees, or even the stomach area to treat chronic abdominal pain.
A radiofrequency needle is placed in the area of the nerve to be treated. Sometimes, special testing is done to verify that the needle is close to the correct nerve. Local anesthetic is then injected to numb the area before the needle is heated to a temperature that either severs the nerve or stuns it for an extended time. RF ablation is one of the best procedure pain specialists have – it only takes a few minutes, requires no restrictions to activity, and often lasts months to years.