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Radiofrequency Ablation

This minimally invasive procedure uses radiofrequency energy to stop nerves in the spine from sending pain signals to the brain. Also known as neurotomy when used to treat pain in the neck, back, and spine, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) targets facet joints or the sacroiliac joint to relieve pain caused by injury or degenerative diseases like arthritis. The facet joints, located between and behind vertebrae, allow for flexible movement. The sacroiliac joint connects the sacrum (triangular bone at the lower end of the spine) to the iliac crest (pelvic bone). RFA may be recommended when conservative treatment, such as medication and physical therapy, fails to relieve pain.

In general, patients are sedated in the office and the skin on the back or neck is numbed with a local anesthetic. Using imaging guidance, the pain management specialist inserts a needle adjacent to the medial nerves on the facet joints or along the lateral nerves at the sacroiliac joint. During the procedure, called a lateral branch or medial branch nerve block, a local anesthetic numbs the nerves before heat is used to create a lesion on the nerve, disrupting its ability to transmit pain signals to the brain.

The in-office procedure lasts between 30 and 90 minutes, and the skin puncture is covered with a small adhesive bandage. Most people experience relief within one to two weeks. Your pain management specialist will give you specific information personalized to your condition and lifestyle goals, as well as a detailed description of the procedure and instructions on how to recover successfully.

Spine Disease and Back Pain

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At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please call (713) 486-8100, or click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.

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