Arthritis pain can keep you from enjoying hobbies you love or getting the rest you need. If you’re not interested or able to pursue advanced surgical options, there are alternatives. One such alternative is a radiofrequency ablation (RFA) also known as a "rhizotomy."
Read on to learn more about RFA and how it can help treat your arthritis.
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Radiofrequency ablation is used to treat severe, chronic pain associated with arthritis of the spine. The procedure uses heat, concentrated on specific nerve tissues, to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain.
A physician uses x-ray guidance to direct a specialized radiofrequency needle along the targeted nerves. A small amount of electrical current is used to target the correct nerves and to help align the needle. Then radiofrequency waves are sent through the needle to heat its tip and disrupt the nerve’s ability to send signals.
- RFA is a minimally invasive operation and can typically be done in day-surgery clinics. Patients go home shortly after the operation.
- Patients are awake during the procedure (although a sedative is administered), so any risks with anesthesia are avoided.
- Pain can be relieved for anywhere between six months to a year.
How does it help treat arthritis?
A rhizotomy procedure can be beneficial to facet or spondylosis arthritis in a few ways. While the joint will still be arthritic, the pain will be relieved significantly. The pain relief is also considered long-lasting. The average steroid injection provides about three to four months of relief, whereas an RFA provides 10-12 months. As a result, people get an increase in mobility and can be considerably more active.
It’s also a great alternative to surgery, especially for people with certain medical complications in which they can’t have surgery or surgery hasn’t been effective in the past. Others might be too young or not have enough pain to warrant a surgery. RFA can be particularly beneficial for these people.