A cervical Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA), which is the same as a neurotomy in our practice, is an outpatient procedure for treating headaches, neck, shoulder and upper back pain. It is also called cervical facet thermal coagulation or rhizotomy. This information has been provided by your doctor so you can better understand this procedure. Your doctor will make the best recommendation for your specific needs.
What is a cervical RFA?
RFA uses radiofrequency energy to disrupt nerve function. When this is done to a cervical medial branch nerve, the nerve can no longer transmit pain signals from an injured facet joint.
What happens during an RFA?
A local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, will be used to insure the safe and proper position of the needle. The doctor will then check that the needle is in the proper position by stimulating the nerve. This may cause muscle twitching and provoke some of your pain. With the needle in the correct position, the area will be numbed.
Your doctor will then use radiofrequency energy to disrupt the medial branch nerve.
What happens after an RFA?
You will be monitored for up to 30 minutes after the injection. Before you leave, you will be given discharge instructions. You may feel sore for one to four days. This is normal, and may be caused by muscle and nerve irritation. Your neck or upper back may feel numb, weak, or itchy for a couple of weeks. Be patient, as full pain relief normally takes two to three weeks.
How long can I expect pain relief?
While it varies from patient to patient, nerves can take up to 18 months to regenerate after an RFA. Your pain may or may not return when the nerves regenerate. If it does, another RFA can be done.