Radiofrequency ablation is a good treatment for traumatic arthritis and other arthritic pain. The procedure of RFA involves passing an electric current through the arthritic area, numbing the nerves and decreasing the pain in a specific part of the joint or bones. It is best used in the low back area or neck area, where there are parts of the affected spine that are degenerative. The pain-relief is particularly long—as long as a year in some cases.
More than 70 percent of cases treated with radiofrequency ablation achieve some kind of pain relief and in some the pain is completely relieved. Radiofrequency ablation has been proven safe and very effective when it comes to pain control. There are few associated side effects and most people tolerate the procedure extremely well. Some people have a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the insertion site of the needle.
The main ill effect of radiofrequency ablation is discomfort, along with bruising and swelling at the site of the needle insertion. Heat is used to ablate the nerves but most people don’t notice the application of heat. Most symptoms dissipate after a few days.
Not everyone can tolerate radiofrequency ablation, such as people who have an active infection or history of bleeding problems.
As a person gets ready for radiofrequency ablation, they need to eliminate solid foods within 6 hours of the procedure and stop liquids 2 hours before the procedure. Insulin dosing may need to be adjusted on the day of the procedure. Take all other medication with a sip of water and don’t stop any medication unless the doctor recommends it. Have someone provide a ride home following the procedure and don’t drive heavy equipment for about 24 hours following the procedure.
Your doctor will first evaluate you to see if radiofrequency ablation is recommended. The doctor will explain how the procedure works and will talk about side effects and complication of the procedure. Your questions will be answered.
The nurses will place an IV line in your vein before you have the ablation procedure. A sedative might be used to relax you during the procedure. You will otherwise be awake during the procedure but will feel less discomfort. You will gradually return to normal sedation and will, after some observation, be allowed to return home. Pain relief is relatively immediate.