How is an RF Administered?
Non-surgical spinal treatment is performed in an operating room or procedure suite. With the patient in a prone position (on your stomach) and under local anesthesia (skin is frozen with numbing medication) and fluoroscopic (live x-ray) guidance, a radio-frequency needle is advanced to the base of the spinal bone that the nerve runs along. The needle is placed along the course of the appropriate nerve (medial branch of the dorsal ramus).
The needle is heated to 80 degrees C for 90 seconds. At least 2 branches for each joint are treated in this same manner. Each branch may be heated 2-4 times to achieve a full clinical effect.
How Long Does it Take?
The neurotomy takes between 45 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on the number of levels to be done. The patient is then brought to the recovery area for 30 minutes of observation.
The risks of this procedure are minimal. Theoretically, there is a risk of nerve damage to the larger spinal nerve where the medial branch of the dorsal ramus originates. However, 3-step safety precautions are taken to avoid this, and true nerve damage is quite rare. At one particular level, the C2-3 level, you may experience a patch of numbness at the base of your skull after the procedure. This is expected after a neurotomy of the third occipital nerve (TON).
It is not uncommon to experience increased localized neck pain for 1-2 weeks from the time of the procedure. As with any injection procedure, there is a remote risk of bleeding or infection.
Following the neurotomy, there is a 60 to 70% chance of complete or near-complete pain relief. This typically lasts for 9 to 11 months. However, the duration of relief can range from 6 months to 3 years. The nerve eventually grows back and the procedure can be repeated. Contact our specialists today!