What is Radiofrequency Lesioning?

Radiofrequency lesioning (RFL) — sometimes called radiofrequency rhizotomy, radiofrequency ablation, or RF neurotomy — is a procedure used to interrupt nerve conduction. This is a semi-permanent outpatient procedure that blocks specific nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.

Who would benefit from Radiofrequency Lesioning?

Radiofrequency lesioning is most beneficial for people who experience persistent back and neck pain. The pain most often radiates from joints along the spine, specifically that of the facet joints. Facet joints are joints at the back of the spine located at each vertebral level, one on each side of the spine. They provide both flexibility and stability, but they can also become irritated and send pain signals to the brain. Past nerve damage can also lead to oversensitivity.

Radiofrequency lesioning can treat the following issues:

  • Facet joint pain
  • Nerve damage
  • Neck pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Sprains and strains
  • Spinal arthritis and spinal stenosis
  • Sacroiliac joint nerves and peripheral nerves

For those who have exhausted other pain treatment methods such as physical therapy, pain medications, or steroid injections but who are still reporting a high pain level, radiofrequency lesioning is a good option to consider.

Radiofrequency Lesioning Procedure Steps

How does radiofrequency lesioning work? The procedure usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to complete.

  1. First, the patient will lie on their stomach during the procedure.
  2. The treatment site is cleaned, then injected with a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort. This will feel like a little pinch.
  3. Patients can receive an IV for sedation purposes should they so choose, with sedation levels varying from slight drowsiness to fully sedated.
  4. A fluoroscopy (x-ray) device will be used by the physician to guide the radiofrequency needle to the correct nerves for proper placement.
  5. After fluoroscopic guidance, radiofrequency waves will then be delivered through the needle to the targeted nerve. These currents heat the nerve to about 175 degrees Fahrenheit. After 2 minutes, the nerve is “damaged,” thus preventing pain signals from traveling to the brain.

Note: Southside Pain Specialists is a referral-only pain clinic. To schedule an appointment, you must first obtain a physician referral from your doctor. Make sure to discuss all current medications — especially blood thinning medication — with your healthcare provider before pursuing treatment.

Post-procedure Details

The patient will remain at the outpatient center immediately following the procedure for proper monitoring. A longer recovery period will be required for those who underwent heavy sedation; however, most patients should still be released within a couple of hours. It is recommended they have someone else drive them home.

The procedure may result in pain or soreness at the injection site. Allergic reaction, infection, or other complications are rare, but it is best practice to only partake in light activities over the next day or two.

The full benefits of radiofrequency lesioning are expected to take effect in about one week. A follow-up office visit may be arranged. It may be useful for you to keep a “pain diary” to track pain levels and related symptoms before and after the radiofrequency lesioning procedure. 

Radiofrequency lesioning is 70 to 80% effective in people who have a successful diagnostic block, though it is possible for the damaged nerves to re-grow over time. The procedure can be repeated if necessary.


For Chronic Pain Relief, Schedule A Radiofrequency Lesioning Appointment with Us Today

The pain medicine specialists at Southside Pain Specialists are passionate about helping their patients find relief from chronic back pain, muscle pain, and inflammation.

To learn more about RF lesioning and other chronic pain management solutions, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our Birmingham pain clinic. Contact us online or by phone at (205) 900-3927.

Schedule a Consultation Today

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