Accessibility Tools
Call for Appointment


What is it?

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) also called rhizotomy or neurotomy is a novel non-surgical technique which employs radiofrequency waves to produce heat that damages the nerves transmitting pain signals to the brain.

How is it done?

You will be taken to the pre op area where trained nursing staff will get you ready for the procedure. Before the procedure an intravenous (IV) line may be placed in a vein in your arm and a local anesthetic and mild sedative may be used to relax you during RFA. You will be lying on your stomach. Only a small area over your back which requires treatment is cleansed and numbed. This procedure is performed under the guidance of fluoroscopy. The fluoroscope is a special kind of X-ray machine that helps doctors to visualize the placement of the needle electrode when it is inserted.

During the procedure, your doctor will direct a special radiofrequency needle electrode close to the facet joint in such a manner that the needle tip lies almost near to the medial branch nerve. Medial branch nerves are very small nerves that innervate the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are the joints connecting the different vertebra of the spine to each other. The joints are present on both sides of the spine from the neck to the lower back. Once the needle and electrode placement are verified, a small amount of electrical current is sent through the needle so the nerve gets cauterized and destroyed, subsequently reducing the pain. The needle is removed and the injection site is covered with a dry, sterile bandage.

How long does it take?

The RFA procedure will take one to two hours to perform, depending upon the on the area of the body treated and number of treatments performed.

Pre-procedure Preparation

To prepare for radiofrequency ablation treatment, you should take the following precautions:

Post Procedure protocol

Following radiofrequency ablation you may be able to go home within one hour. You may resume your normal diet. Do not drive or perform vigorous physical activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure. If pain increases, pain medication may be prescribed to make you comfortable. People who have problems with constipation should eat more high-fiber foods, drink plenty of fluids and if needed, use over–the–counter stool softeners. If you notice swelling and redness at the injection site, apply ice over a towel for 20 minutes every hour to the area to ease the discomfort.

Although the results of radiofrequency ablation vary, the pain relief achieved lasts from 3 to 12 months in most patients. In some cases the pain may return as the nerve regenerates. Your follow-up appointment will be scheduled a week or two after the procedure to see how well the treatment has worked.

What does it do?

Radiofrequency ablation is performed to treat painful facet joints in the spine that usually cause chronic low back pain, neck pain and pain related to the degeneration of joints from arthritis.

Radiofrequency ablation treatment is considered only after it is confirmed that the cause of back pain lies in the facet joints, by performing a diagnostic facet joint injection.


Benefits of radiofrequency ablation include:

Risks/Side effects

Radiofrequency ablation procedure is a safe treatment with low risks for complications. However, with any procedure there are possibilities of complications. Some risks and complications associated with radiofrequency ablation include: