Radio-Frequency Denervation (Ablation)

The main aim of interventional pain treatments is to accurately locate the cause of the ongoing pain, confirm the diagnosis, and test the reversibility of the symptoms. It is, therefore, customary to carry out an injection with local anaesthetic with or without steroids to ‘test’ the accuracy of the diagnosis and assess how much of the pain is inflammatory by the beneficial effects of the steroid. We will use this information to plan further longer-lasting radio-frequency treatments as required.

Radio-Frequency Denervation (Ablation)

This is a method for identifying and then heating specific nerves, causing pain in the spine or major joints. The procedure generates heat, which ‘cuts’ the nerve cleanly, stopping the communication between the affected painful area and the spine. These nerves will regrow and reform, which usually takes up to 2 years, allowing a period during which the patient can rehabilitate without pain to improve muscle strength and mobility.

Prior to performing the RF ablation you will usually have had a diagnostic injection to confirm that the pain is coming from the target area and that this is reversible. During the procedure, the nerve is successfully located and identified, then numbed with local anaesthetic prior to the ablation procedure, which should be painless. Once the local anaesthetic has worn off, there may be some localised pain, which lasts for a few days after the procedure. We suggest you take some simple oral analgesia during this period or apply heat or cold to the area. The procedure is carried out with x-ray guidance with or without sedation and usually takes 30-60 minutes, depending on how many nerves are treated.

After your treatment

We suggest that someone drive you home after these procedures, with or without sedation. The pain reduction in the first 24-48 hours is an important indicator in the future success of treatments, and if you have had a non-radiofrequency treatment, you will be asked to make a note of this by email.

As far as activity is concerned, you should carry on with your usual level of activity in the first few weeks after the treatment, and you will be reviewed in the clinic in four to six weeks.