Lumbar Medial Branch Radiofrequency Ablation

  • Purpose – To help patients with chronic pain, and pain-related to joint degeneration.
  • Overview – Radiofrequency ablation of the medial branch nerve is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that reduces back pain by interrupting the nerve supply from painful zygapophyseal (facet) joints.  These are  joints where  the vertebrae of the spine connect together . This is conducted by creating a nerve lesion with localized heat in order to interrupt the pain signals and weaken the pain perceived by the brain.
  • Before the procedureYou will need to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.  You should not take any blood thinners for one week before this procedure.
  • Details – The procedure begins with the patient being connected to monitoring devices and skin temperature monitors for safety and comfort purposes. Anesthetics and IV sedation are used if needed. A numbing solution is used to reduce pain at the injection site. Electrical stimulation is then done to make sure that the procedure will not affect movement in the leg. Localized heat is then generated, destroying the surrounding pain fibers.
  • After the procedure – Numbness should only last a few hours until the anesthetic wears off. Once the anesthetic wears off, there may be mild discomfort that lasts for a couple of weeks. It is recommended to treat discomfort with ice on the day of the procedure and moist heat a day after the procedure. Because this is an outpatient procedure, it is best to coordinate a ride home after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours.
  • Potential complications – Infection, bleeding at the injection site, swelling, or bruising.  There is also potential for developing weakness and numbness in the leg, but testing done during the procedure usually prevents this.

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