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Pain Management Health Center

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Radiofrequency Ablation for Arthritis Pain

What Happens During Radiofrequency Ablation?

You will meet with a doctor for an evaluation. If radiofrequency ablation is recommended, a doctor will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects.

The doctor will also answer any questions you may have.

An intravenous (IV) line may be placed in a vein in your arm before the procedure and a local anesthetic and mild sedative may be used to reduce any discomfort during RFA. You may be awake during the process to aid in properly assessing the procedure. Ask your doctor about specifics beforehand.

After the local anesthesia (you will be awake but will not feel any pain) has been given, the doctor will insert a small needle into the general area where you are experiencing pain. Using X-ray, your doctor will guide the needle to the exact target area. A microelectrode is then inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process.

During the procedure, your doctor will ask if you are able to feel a tingling sensation. The object of the stimulation process is to help the doctor determine if the electrode is in the optimal area for treatment.

Once the needle and electrode placement are verified, a small radiofrequency current is sent through the electrode into the surrounding tissue, causing the tissue to heat. You should not feel discomfort during the heating portion of the procedure.

What Happens After Radiofrequency Ablation?

Following radiofrequency ablation:

  • You will stay in a recovery room for observation, where a nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse.
  • A bandage will be placed over the injection site.
  • The nurse will give you a beverage and review your discharge instructions with you.
  • Someone must drive you home.

Can I Resume My Normal Activities After Radiofrequency Ablation?

You will have a few restrictions immediately following radiofrequency ablation:

  • Do not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
  • You may resume your normal diet.
  • Do not engage in any strenuous activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Do not take a bath for one to two days after the procedure; you may shower.
  • You may remove any bandages in the evening before going to bed.

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