We often have many questions about Radiofrequency procedures in our Panama City FL office so I have written this brief synopsis of the procedure and some things to expect. I have tried to make the information useful to all those that read this whether they are here in Panama City or elsewhere and whether or not they combine Chiropractic care with the Radiofrequency or not.
Radiofrequency ablation (also known as medial branch rhizotomy ) is a procedure used to reduce severe or chronic pain. The procedure is performed by placing an electrical current produced by radio waves next to a nerve that is carrying pain signals from the joint to the spinal nerve. The radio waves heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from the targeted area.
RFA is commonly used to relieve patients with long-lasting low-back/leg and neck/arm pain and pain related to the degeneration of joints of the spine from arthritis. These conditions must show positive responses to previously performed trial blocks to determine if the tissue treated are indeed the areas causing the pain before RFA can be used. The degree of pain relief can vary depending on the root cause and location of the pain source. The relief can last from six to 12 months and in some cases, can last for years. More than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief according to some studies.
To prepare for treatment, you should make sure that you do not eat within six hours of your appointment except for clear liquids until two hours before the procedure. If you have diabetes and use insulin, you must adjust the dosage of insulin the day of the procedure which your primary care doctor can help you with. Bring in your diabetes medication so you can take it after the procedure as well as any other medication that you may need. Continue to take all other medications with water. Do not discontinue any medication (especially insulin) without first consulting with your primary care or referring doctor. You will need to bring someone with you to drive you home after the procedure and you should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours after the procedure.
On the day of the procedure a doctor will explain the procedure in detail and answer any questions you may have, including possible complications and side effects. During the procedure the doctor will use a specialized X-ray device called a C-Arm, this will help the doctor guide a needle to the exact target area. Once the location is established a microelectrode is then inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. During this process the doctor will ask you at various times if you are able to feel certain sensations. The object of the this is to help your doctor determine if the electrode is in the best place for treatment. After the needle and electrode placement are obtained, a small Radiofrequency current is sent through the electrode into the surrounding tissue, causing the tissue to heat. Patients should not feel any discomfort during the heating portion of the procedure as we do not have heat sensors in this tissue.
Following the procedure you will stay in the office or surgical center for observation, where a nurse will check your blood pressure and pulse. You will have a bandage placed over your procedure site and you must make sure that you have someone to drive you home.
RFA has clinically proven to be a safe and effective way to treat some forms of pain. It also is generally well-tolerated, with very few associated complications. There is a slight risk of infection and bleeding at the insertion site. Your doctor can advise you about your particular risk.
The main side effect of RFA is some discomfort with swelling and/or bruising, at the site of the treatment, but this generally goes away after a few days and of course as with any medical procedure, RFA is not appropriate for everyone. Your doctor can tell you if you should not have RFA.
Following treatment with RFA you will follow up with your doctor to monitor your progress and in the cases where Chiropractic care and physical therapy are available you will begin the process of rehabilitation. This phase of your care is very important even if your pain has been eliminated because the joint is not fixed at this point only the pain blocked and if the joint problem is not addressed the likelihood of the pain and additional joint damage increases. The Chiropractic care is designed to improve overall joint function and the in rehab you will learn exercises and stretches to improve muscle function and strength around those joints which will help stabilize the affected areas for the future.