Radiofrequency Ablation Facts & Information

A radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is also called facet thermal coagulation or rhizotomy. This page will explain what it is. Your doctor can explain if it is for you.

RFA uses radiofrequency energy to disrupt nerve function. When this is done to a cervical medial branch nerve, the nerve can no longer transmit pain from an injured facet joint. We serve patients in Ocean and Monmouth County, NJ, with locations in Toms River, Brick, and other cities.

What happens during an RFA?

A local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. The doctor will then insert a thin needle near the facet joint. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, must be used to position the needle. The doctor will then check to make sure it is at the correct nerve by stimulating it. This may cause muscle twitching and provoke some of your pain.

Once the needle is properly placed, the nerve will be numbed. Radiofrequency energy will then be used to disrupt the medial branch nerve. This is often repeated at more than one level of the spine.

What happens after an RFA?

You will be monitored for up to 30 minutes after the RFA. When you are ready to leave, the staff will give you discharge instructions. You will also be given a pain diary. It is important to fill this out because it helps your doctor know how the RFA is working. Take it easy for the rest of the day.

You may feel sore for one to four days. It may be due to muscle and nerve irritation. Your back may feel numb, weak, or itchy for a couple weeks. Maximum pain relief normally comes in two to three weeks.

How long can I expect pain relief?

Nerves regenerate after an RFA, but how long this takes varies. Your pain mayor may not return when the nerves regenerate. If it does, another RFA can be done.

Conditions it Helps

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