Radiofrequency Ablation For Managing Pain

Much of the success of interventional pain solutions is dependent upon the expertise and skill set of the prescribing physician. Among our specialists are physicians who are board-certified by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation or the American Board of Anesthesiology.

As a fellowship-trained anesthesiologist specializing in interventional pain management strategies, Dr. Deitra Williams-Toone is able to offer EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region patients advanced treatment for pain management, including radiofrequency ablation.

What is Radiofrequency Ablation for Pain?

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Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is an interventional procedure that provides pain relief by using thermal energy to disrupt peripheral nerves carrying nociceptive signals back to the central nervous system, thus eliminating lower back, spine, or neck pain.

RFA has proven to be a safe and effective way to treat some forms of pain. It also is generally well-tolerated, with very few associated complications. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the insertion site, though your specialist at EmergeOrtho–Triangle Region can advise you about your particular risk.

A study from the Radiological Society of North America shows that cooled radiofrequency ablation may be promising to help relieve pain after joint replacement.

Who is a Good Candidate for Radiofrequency Treatment?

Conservative, non-surgical treatments are usually tried first, and Dr. Williams-Toone will be happy to guide you through alternative pain management options before discussing radiofrequency ablation.

The following conditions can be treated with radiofrequency ablation:

  • Degenerative spine disease
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Pain associated with joint degeneration
  • Arthritic joint pain

It’s important to note that RFA will be part of a larger, customized care plan for you which may include physical therapy, lifestyle and dietary changes, and better stress management.

Although rare, risks may occur during or after the radiofrequency ablation procedure. These risks may be associated with the RFA procedure itself or the sedation provided before treatment. Risks associated with RFA treatment may include:

  • Hyperesthesia—an excessive, abnormal sensitivity over the skin of the injection site
  • Superficial skin infections over the injection site
  • Damage to surrounding blood vessels and nerves during needle insertion resulting in excessive bleeding and/or irreversible neurologic damage causing long-term numbness and tingling
  • Heat damage to structures adjacent to the target nerve
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic used to numb the skin

What is the Procedure for RFA Like?

The procedure is relatively simple. First, your interventional pain management specialist will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. If you’re a candidate for RFA, you’ll undergo a diagnostic nerve block.

During ablation therapy, our highly trained interventional pain management expert, Deitra Williams-Toone, MD uses fluoroscopy, which is a live X-ray, for guidance. This allows her to expertly target and place the radiofrequency needle. Once the target nerve has been located and tested, it will be numbed in order to limit pain. Once the nerve is numbed, radiofrequency waves will heat the tip of the needle, creating a heat lesion on the nerve. She will then repeat this process to treat other problem nerves as necessary.

This 30 to 90-minute treatment is minimally invasive and allows you to return home following completion.

What Are the Results of RFA Treatment?

We recommended rest for several days following the radiofrequency ablation procedure. Although you may return to normal activities the following day, be cautious and do not overexert yourself.

Pain relief from radiofrequency ablation usually lasts from 6 months to a year, and at times longer. The nerve may regrow through the burned lesion that was created by radiofrequency ablation. If the nerve regrows, it is usually 6-12 months after the procedure. Radiofrequency ablation is 70-80% effective in people who have successful nerve blocks.

No matter which care plan Dr. Williams-Toone recommends, a patient-centered approach will be front and center, determining the best course of action optimized for your specific needs. She will be with you throughout the entire process, including following up during your recovery period. She wants to help you emerge stronger, healthier, and better!

To learn more about interventional pain management options like RFA, request a consultation with Dr. Deitra Williams-Toone or, call us at 984.666.2201. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have or concerns before the procedure.