Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an interventional procedure performed by a high trained Radiologist under imaging guidance. It is a great tool for managing chronic pain and is effective at treating neck, back, knee, shoulder, and hip pain. It is suitable in patients who have previously had short lived or little response to steroid injections. Most of the patients treated with this procedure are at an end stage when it comes to their pain and have found this procedure useful in delaying or avoid surgery.
This procedure can provide long-term pain relief ranging from 6-18 months. A radiofrequency ablation aims to improve neck, back and joint pain so patients can reduce the amount of pain medication they are taking and to help improve their daily quality of life.
This interventional procedure targets the nerves that are causing pain by using radiowaves to generate a current through carefully placed needles. The needles are connected by insulated wires to grounding pads, which are attached to the patient’s back or thigh, and a generator. The current from the generator heats the tips of these needles, which can then stop nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
There are two different types of radiofrequency ablation – continuous and pulsed. Continuous radiofrequency uses high voltage current to generate heat up to 80°C for 90-110 seconds to break down nerves, while pulsed radiofrequency ablations are conducted at a lower temperature of 42°C and help modulate the nerve function whilst preserving motor function.
Nerve tissue will regenerate after this procedure, but this can often take 18 months. If this happens, the pain associated with the nerve may also return. This is usually managed by repeating the procedure, and the procedure can be conducted as often as needed.
At Qscan, we provide continuous and pulsed radiofrequency ablations as an in-patient service. They are performed with under local anaesthetic by a radiologist under imaging guidance. They are minimally invasive, and patients are usually able to return home on the same day as the procedure.
If you think you may benefit from a radiofrequency ablation, speak to your doctor about your suitability for this procedure. Radiofrequency ablations are offered at select Qscan clinics.