Radiofrequency (RF) rhizotomy or neurotomy is a therapeutic procedure designed to decrease and/or eliminate nerve pain symptoms that have not responded to more conservative pain treatments.
The procedure involves destroying the nerves causing the pain with highly localized heat generated with radiofrequency. By destroying these nerves, pain signals are prevented from being transmitted from the spine to the brain. A successful procedure reduces pain without reducing nerve function.
In general, pain relief ranges from 9 months to 3 years. Most patients have around 1 year of pain relief after radiofrequency treatment.
Joints Treated With Radiofrequency Ablation
Joint arthritis, degeneration, or injury can lead to spine pain and a limited range of motion. The joints that can be treated with radiofrequency ablation are:
- Facet joints: facet joints are pairs of small joints that are situated at each vertebral level in the back of the spine. Each facet joint is connected to 2 medial branch nerves that carry signals (including pain signals) away from the spine to the brain.
- Sacroiliac joints: sacroiliac joints (SIJ) are located at the lowest part of the spine, between the sacrum and ilium in the pelvis, and are connected to lateral branch nerves that carry signals to the brain.
The radiofrequency ablation procedure is designed to treat back pain originating from either facet joint or sacroiliac joint problems.