What is Radiofrequency Ablation?
with Roman Zolotoy, DO
Radiofrequency ablation, or RFA, is a technique we use to intercept the painful signals that come from the joints in the low-back. In order to determine if a patient is a good candidate for this procedure, specialists at West Michigan Pain do a test run involving a diagnostic injection. First, specialists place a local anesthetic (Lidocaine) right where the painful nerve is located to numb it up.
“If numbing up that nerve helps their back pain that’s a confirmation that the patient does have nerve pain coming from the small joints in their back,” says West Michigan Pain Specialist Roman Zolotoy, DO. “Targeting those nerves can help the pain.”
Once it’s determined that the patient is a good candidate for the procedure, they return for Radiofrequency Ablation. This non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure does not require anesthesia. Pain Specialists use a special needle to administer an electrical current produced by a radio wave to painful nerves in the lower back or neck. The procedure heats up a small area of nerve tissue decreasing pain signals. RFA can be used to help patients with chronic low-back and neck pain and pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis.
“The patient is made completely comfortable during the procedure,” says Dr. Zolotoy. “We heat up the tip of the device just enough where we can intercept that painful signal. That procedure can provide relief for our patients for at least six months.”
Patient surveys and studies actually show the procedure can relieve pain for six to nine months or more.
When referring to pain coming from the small joints in the back, it is often called axial back pain, or low-back arthritis. Arthritis can happen in between any joints in the body, including the knees, hips and small joints in the back. Patients not only feel pain caused by arthritis in the low-back, but also from the nerves surrounding those joints. Those joints pick up the painful signal and carry them to bigger nerves, and ultimately, the brain where people perceive pain.
“What we do is try to intercept those painful signals where they originate in the lower back to prevent our patients from feeling that pain,” says Dr. Zolotoy. “The ablated nerves do grow back over the course of many months, and when that happens we can repeat the procedure to help our patient’s live life free of pain.”
Radiofrequency Ablation can be used to treat:
- Chronic pain caused by conditions including arthritis of the spine (spondylosis) and sacroiliac (SI) joint pain.
- Pain in your neck, back and knee.
- Cancer pain.
- Peripheral nerve pain.