Radiofrequency lesioning is a minimally invasive procedure where high frequency radio waves are passed through a needle into a small area of a patient’s nerve. When this happens, it creates heat and damages the nerve. This also blocks pain signals to the brain, which can help eliminate or reduce pain.
In many cases, surgery can be avoided when it is used. Although every patient’s condition is unique, patients who have chronic neck and back pain can often benefit from the procedure depending on the diagnosis.
Preparing for the Radiofrequency Lesioning
Before scheduling the procedure, a physician will need to perform a diagnostic test to identify the source of pain. To do this, the physician will place a temporary block on select nerves using only a local anesthetic. By doing this, they can confirm the pain is being transmitted by those nerves.
What Happens During Radiofrequency Lesioning?
The patient is sometimes given a light sedative. This is often needed because only a small amount of local anesthetic can be used at the beginning of the procedure. This is because the nerves have to be located and tested in real-time. The local anesthetic would interrupt this testing. The sedative helps to relax the patient and tolerate any minor discomfort that might occur.
Once the correct nerves are located and testing is successful, a radio wave will be used to produce thermal energy that will interrupt the nerve’s ability to send an effective pain signal.
After the sedative wears off, the patient can go home. Most patients are discharged the same day as the procedure. Because of the sedation, patients will need to have a friend or family member drive them home after the procedure.
It can take 1 to 4 weeks to for the block to work. Often patients experience pain relief after radiofrequency denervation that lasts from six months up to two years. After two years, since nerves regenerate, patients may need to schedule a repeat procedure.