Back pain continues to be a daily concern for millions of Americans based on the findings of a recent national survey by the North American Spine Society. Facet joints are a well-recognized source of pain in patients with persistent back pain. 
Radiofrequency ablation provides a minimally invasive procedure that can give lasting pain relief from facet joint pain. This highly effective treatment, also called radiofrequency lesioning, involves applying heat to the appropriate nerve pathways to “shut off” the transmission of pain signals to the brain. It completes the continuum of care for patients who haven't responded to conservative treatments, but want a minimally invasive alternative to surgery.
Patients with facet joint pain who do not respond to conservative treatment or whose pain does not improve may be helped by radiofrequency ablation.
This minimally invasive procedure works by disrupting pain signals that are sent from inflamed nervous tissue in the spine to the brain. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and requires only local anesthetic and mild sedation, alleviating the possible complications of open surgery and general anesthesia.
Using fluoroscopic guidance, cannulae are carefully introduced in the areas of the spine to be treated. Electrodes are then inserted into each cannulae and a series of sensory and motor tests are administered individually at each needle site to confirm correct needle placement. After these diagnostic tests have been confirmed, a high frequency current is sent through the electrodes to heat up and lesion the surrounding nerve tissue. The lesions created disrupt the pain signals sent from the spine to the brain.
Patients typically go home within 1 to 3 hours and most are able to return to work and their normal activities within 24 to 38 hours.
Radiofrequency ablation completes the continuum of care for back pain sufferers who want a minimally invasive alternative to surgery.