Radiofrequency (RF) rhizotomy is a therapeutic procedure designed to decrease and/or eliminate pain symptoms arising from degenerative facet joints. The procedure involves destroying the nerves surrounding the effected facet joints with localized heat generated by radiofrequency. By destroying these nerves, the communication link that signals pain from the spine to the brain can be broken.
Our first step is to verify the areas where the pain originates. We may need to do an MRI or facet nerve injections with local anesthetic (numbing medication) and steroid (anti-inflammatory medication) and possibly discography.
The procedure itself is minimally invasive and performed with local anesthesia. In some cases, mild sedation may be necessary. But you will be awake during the procedure to provide important feedback to the physician. The procedure is conducted in one of our surgi-centers adjacent to our offices.
The procedure itself involves a thin needle electrode placed adjacent to the degenerative facet joint. We will check the needle placement using a fluoroscope (x-ray camera), which is connected to a T.V. monitor. We will precisely target the area by stimulating the nerve with low voltage electricity. The stimulation will cause the affected muscles to rhythmically contract.
We will then apply anesthesia to put the nerve to sleep, then apply heat to the nerve via the electrode for approximately 60 seconds. This heat cauterizes the nerve ending thus breaking the communication link to the brain.
Once the local anesthetic effects have worn off, your usual symptoms may return and may be more severe for up to 5-7 days after the procedure. Improvement is usually noticed by the second or third week after the procedure.