Radiofrequency Neurotomy/Rhizotomy

What is Radiofrequency Neurotomy/Rhizotomy?

Radiofrequency Neurotomy/Rhizotomy is a treatment used to reduce pain from facet joints. The facet joints are thumbnail-sized joints that are located in pairs between each bone of your spine. Radiofrequency energy is used to heat and destroy the nerves going to the facet joints (called the medial branch nerves) to reduce the pain coming from these joints. To ensure proper placement of the treatment probe the procedure is done under fluoroscopy (a type of low dose X-ray).

What is the purpose of Radiofrequency Neurotomy/Rhizotomy?

Facet joints can become painful due to injury, arthritis, or other conditions. This treatment can reduce the pain from facet joints.

How is the procedure performed?

After you check-in, you will be asked to put on a hospital gown and then lie on a stretcher in the holding room. An IV is started for medications and safety. A brief pre-procedure history will be taken and you will then be transported to the procedure room where you will be positioned on the X-ray table. Although you will be awake throughout the test you will be given medicine if you so desire. After being positioned on the X-ray table, your skin will be cleaned with sterile soap. Anesthetic is injected to numb your skin and muscles over the spine. After this, fluoroscopy (X-ray) is used to guide a needle into the proper location. Additional anesthetic is injected to numb the nerve to be destroyed and the radiofrequency procedure is then performed. Afterward, you are taken to a recovery room where you'll need to rest for at least 30 minutes before going home.

The entire process for check-in, preparation, recovery, and checkout will take several hours. The procedure itself takes about 30 minutes, however more time is spent in the procedure room for preparation. During the injection, pain is sometimes increased temporarily. The procedure can be stopped immediately at any time upon your request. Following the procedure you may experience some increased discomfort or soreness for several days.

What are the risks associated with Radiofrequency Neurotomy/Rhizotomy?

Every medical procedure, no matter how small, contains some risks. Anytime a needle is placed into your body there is a risk of tissue injury, infection, and bleeding. If this occurs in or near the spine it can result in nerve damage. Although extremely rare, severe nerve damage and death have occurred following spine injections. In addition, the treatment probe can injure nerves other than the treated nerves. Injections near the spine also risk dural puncture and spinal headache. More common risks include a temporary increase in pain, local tenderness after the injection, allergic reaction or side effects from medication.