Cervical Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation

  • Purpose – To reduce pain from the zygapophyseal (facet) joints. 
  • Procedure Overview - The  cervical zygapophyseal (facet) joints receive nerve innervation through the medial branches.  This procedure creates an electrical field near the nerves in essence heating them up so they can not transmit the pain anymore.  This usually lasts for many months.
  • Procedure Details – The patient is lying on their belly.  A fluoroscopy machine (x-ray) is used to view the spine, and needles.  The skin, and tissues under it are anesthetized (numbed.)  Needles are then directed to the area of the medial branches.  In-location radiofrequency is performed for 1-3 minutes. The procedure may take 20-30 minutes.
  • Before the Procedure – The patient should arrive 15 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment to get prepared.  This involves a blood pressure check, consent, and if needed application of a hospital gown.  An antianxiety medication may be given if needed.  The patient will need a driver to bring them to and from the visit.  Blood thinners should be held from 5-7 days prior to the injection.  This would include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen, naproxen), aspirin, Plavix, Effient, warfarin, and Pradaxa.
  • After the Procedure – The staff will check vitals, and ensure there are no ill effects before discharge home.  If the area is sore then application of ice would be prudent for 20 minutes per hour until soreness is reduced.   There may be increased soreness for a week or two before pain improves.

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