Description and Presentation
Radiofrequency denervation is a procedure in which the nerves fibres supplying painful areas are selectively destroyed by heat. This heat is produced by radio waves and delivered to the nerve fibres through an electrode. The treatment is usually performed after patients have undergone successful injections of the painful area. It should provide longer lasting pain relief
X-rays, ultrasound scan and/or MRI scan.
Radiofrequency denervation is performed under X-ray guidance. The skin over the area to be injected is frozen with local anaesthetic. A fine insulated needle is passed under X-ray guidance to a point near to where the nerve lies. Once in position, a small current is passed down the needle. This stimulates the nerve and causes some mild tingling in the region or mild muscle tightness. This indicates that the needle is lying right next to the nerve.
After some local anaesthetic is injected, the needle tip is heated by radio waves (a bit like microwaves) to just below boiling point for 60 to 160 seconds. This is not painful and is repeated on all the affected areas.
Radiofrequency denervation has been subject to several clinical trials and evaluations over the years and has been shown to be safe and effective. With X-ray guidance, the chances of harm are small. The nerves affected are the ones that transmit pain signals. This procedure does not affect any other nerves.
You may experience some discomfort and a “bruised” feeling for anything up to two weeks. We normally suggest that you take things gently during this time. Please use your usual analgesics as prescribed.
After a one or two week period, it is essential that you undertake regular stretches and exercises. The combination of radiofrequency denervation and structured exercise gives the best results.
Experience shows that about 80% of patients with pain experience significant pain relief from this procedure, provided they have had some limited pain relief from simple injections. The relief can last up to a couple of years or more and may be repeated if symptoms return.