Radiofrequency Ablation for Chronic Pain - What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation of nerves is a procedure that may be used
to reduce certain kinds of
chronic pain by preventing transmission of pain
signals. It is a safe procedure in which a portion of nerve tissue is heated to
cause an interruption in pain signals and reduce pain in that area. This
procedure is sometimes called radiofrequency lesioning.
doctor will first identify the nerve or nerves that are sending pain signals to
your brain. You will have a test that uses a nerve block, which numbs specific nerves, to help your doctor find the nerves that are causing your pain.
Not long after her daughter was born in 1999, Sherrie Sisk began
experiencing debilitating episodes of pain that left her feeling like she’d
been run over by a truck.
“It was like the worst flu aches and pains you could ever imagine,” she
says. A few months later, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain
condition characterized by fatigue and pain, particularly focused around
certain “tender points” in the body.
Ten years later, she’s learned to live with her condition -- and her
You may have X-rays to pinpoint where to direct the radiofrequency
probe. After you receive a
local anesthetic, the doctor places an instrument
under your skin through which electrical stimulation heats the surrounding
tissue. This may cause you to feel a buzzing or tingling sensation. The heat
"stuns" your nerves, blocking them from sending pain signals to your brain. But
the nerve often tries to grow back. If it does, the results are only temporary
and usually last for around 6 to 9 months.
This procedure is done
in an operating room and takes between 20 minutes to 1 hour or longer depending
on how many, and which, nerves are being blocked. If the nerve that is blocked
is not the nerve that is causing the pain, your pain will not be
Radiofrequency ablation is not effective for everyone. If
you have not responded well to other treatment, such as diagnostic local
nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation will probably
not work for you.