Radiofrequency Neurotomy (RFN)

Radiofrequency Neurotomy: The Procedure

Radiofrequency neurotomy is a treatment used to alleviate pain from a facet joint injury, usually incurred during a car accident. Facet joints are situated at each vertebral level of the spine. Each joint is connected to two medial nerves. The medial nerves transmit signals from the spine to the brain and the rest of the body.

  • The doctor, using x-ray guidance, inserts the needle parallel to and against the targeted nerve.
  • An intermittent electrical current is delivered; creating a heat lesion, interrupting the pain signals to the brain. The current cannot be a continuous flow because that could damage the ganglion (nerve bundle) or surrounding tissue.
  • Over the next 10-14 days the nerve dies; hopefully, providing the patient with full pain relief within 2-3 weeks.

Radiofrequency Neurotomy: Potential Complications

Radiofrequency neurotomy is not a cure for your injury; it is a treatment. It is a treatment that is effective for an average of only 11 months. That means you will have to have RFN repeated multiple times during your lifetime.

With all medical procedures, there are risks and potential complications. The associated complications with RFN are:

  • pain at the site of injection
  • numbness at the site of injection
  • increased facet joint pain due to muscle spasms
  • permanent nerve damage
  • infection

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