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Radiofrequency / Rhizotomy

Radiofrequency / Rhizotomy

What is Radiofrequency?

Radiofrequency Rhizotomy is a minimally-invasive pain management procedure which results in the interruption of the nerve supply to a facet joint .  This interruption known as denervation, is accomplished by a radiofrequency probe that heats the 2 small nerve branches to each facet joint.  These nerves are called medial branches. During this procedure the medial branch nerves are disrupted in order to block pain signals received by the brain.

What happens during the radiofrequency procedure?

  • You will be positioned on your stomach.
  • The Anesthesiologist will start your monitored anesthesia care (IV sedation)
  • The area will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution and the skin over the injection site will be numbed.
  • The doctor will use x-ray guidance to place thin needles in the area involved.
  • A radiofrequency machine will be used to interrupt the facet nerves.

What results should I expect from this procedure?

Following the radiofrequency treatment, there is a 60% chance of full pain relief.  This typically lasts for 3 months to 1 ½ years.  The nerve eventually grows back and the procedure can be repeated.  While the patient is experiencing pain relief, physical therapy is necessary to try and strengthen the involved facet joints.


cervicalrfneurotomy_300This minimally invasive procedure, also called radiofrequency ablation (RF), neurotomy or rhizotomy, reduces or eliminates the pain of damaged facet joints by disrupting the medial branch nerves that carry the pain signals. This procedure is performed with local anesthetic. Watch the video on cervical facet radiofrequency.


This procedure is minimally invasive and acts in the same manor as the cervical facet radiofrequency, however the procedure is performed in the lumbar area of the spine.  A needle like tube, called a cannula, is inserted and positioned near the irritated medial branch nerves. A X-ray or fluroscope is used to help position the cannula properly.


thoracic radiofrequencyAs with both the cervical and lumbar radiofrequency treatments, thoracic facet radiofrequency is minimally invasive. By disrupting the medial branch nerves that carry pain signals, pain caused by damaged facet joints is eliminated.

An electrode is inserted through the cannula. The pain physician tests the electrodes position by administring a weak electric stimulation. It the stimulation recreates the pain without any muscular effects, then the electrode is positioned correctly.

The physician then uses the electrode to heat and cauterize the nerve blocking the the pain signals received by the brain. Once all nerves are treated, the electrode and cannula are removed.

[Source: viewmedica.com, swarminteractive]