Patients who feel a significant amount of relief from medial branch blocks on two separate occasions may be good candidates for radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation entails coagulating the medial branch nerves with heat. In turn, the medial branch nerves that provide sensation to the zygapophyseal (facet) joints are no longer able to transmit the signal of pain to the brain.
This procedure is performed under X-ray with the patients lying on their stomachs for the lumbar and thoracic regions or their stomachs or sides for the cervical region. Sensory and motor testing is performed to confirm the placement of the needles. The nerves will then be numbed and the radiofrequency ablation will occur. Patients generally experience six months to one year of relief due to the ability of the nerves to regenerate. Upon return of the pain, the procedure can be repeated.
This is a same day procedure and patients can resume their full activity level the following day.