Radiofrequency (RF) Neurolysis is a procedure to treat facet joint or sacroiliac joint pain. This procedure may also be referred to as radiofrequency neurotomy, radiofrequency rhizotomy or radiofrequency neuroablation.
Patients are carefully screened to determine whether they are appropriate candidates for radiofrequency by first undergoing a series of diagnostic blocks. In the RF procedure a small electrical current from a radiofrequency generator is passed through a special needle called a cannula to treat a specific nerve. The electrical current causes protein within the nerve tissue to coagulate. This area of thermo coagulation or “lesion” causes the pain generating signals to be interrupted thereby reducing or eliminating pain. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the area to be treated and X-ray guidance is used to confirm proper placement of the needle. The actual heating takes only about 90 seconds and is repeated several times along each nerve. A steroid (long-acting cortisone type medication) may be injected to reduce inflammation. Relief of pain may be immediate or may decrease over the next several weeks. It is not uncommon to experience temporary (1-2 weeks) sensitivity or feelings similar to a “sunburn sensation” over the skin where the treatment was performed. Most radiofrequency treatments are not permanent. Typical pain relief can be expected from 4 to 20 months. The nerve tissue eventually regenerates and the process can potentially be repeated in the future, if deemed necessary.