Radiofrequency Treatment of the Medial Branch Nerves, also referred to as a Rhizotomy, is often performed after successful isolation of the specific areas causing pain in the back or neck while using Diagnostic Medial Branch Nerve Block injections.
The procedure involves applying radiofrequency generated heat around the offending nerves to destroy them, therefore preventing the painful signals that are originating from the facet joints from reaching the brain.
This procedure can be performed at any level of the spine including the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. It will be performed on an outpatient basis with sedation for your comfort and usually takes between 15 to 30 minutes. While lying face down on a table, the skin is cleaned and numbed with anesthetic. Your physician uses a fluoroscopic X-ray machine to help guide the radiofrequency needle probes to areas around the targeted nerves.
A series of sensory and motor tests is performed to determine the appropriate placement of the probes in proximity to the nerves. You may be asked if you feel any sensation at each probe site during the sensory and motor testing, ensuring they are placed as close as possible to the problem nerves.
Once these tests are completed, the area is anesthetized. Next, radiofrequency generated heat is administered simultaneously through the probes for approximately one minute to destroy the problem nerves.
After the procedure, you will be monitored for 15 to 30 minutes as you recover from the sedation. You will need someone to drive you home. Some patients may experience a slight increase in pain due to inflammation of the tissue surrounding the nerves, but you should start to experience pain relief within one to six weeks after the procedure.
The effects of the injection vary from patient to patient, but can last anywhere from four months to 18 months. Radiofrequency treatments are usually effective in destroying the offending nerves, but medial branch nerves will regenerate over time. Therefore, the pain relief experienced from this type of treatment is not permanent, but can be repeated as necessary.