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Radiofrequency Ablation for Arthritis Pain

What Happens During Radiofrequency Ablation? continued...

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.

What Side Effects May I Have After Radiofrequency Ablation?

You may experience the following effects after RFA:

  • Leg numbness: If you have any leg numbness, walk only with assistance. This should only last a few hours and is due to the local anesthesia given during the procedure.
  • Mild back discomfort: This may occur when the local anesthetic wears off and usually lasts two or three days. Apply ice to the area the day of the procedure and moist heat the day after the procedure if the discomfort persists. You may also use your usual pain medications.

 

RFA Warning

If you feel severe pain at the injection site and notice swelling and redness, or increased leg weakness, have someone take you to the nearest emergency room or call 911. Tell the emergency room staff that you just had RFA. A doctor must evaluate you for bleeding and injection complications.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on October 12, 2013

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