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What Happens During a Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure?

What Happens During a Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure?

More than one in five American adults is living with chronic pain. And if you’re one of them, you know how it can erode your quality of life and make even the simplest tasks difficult to perform. Chronic pain is complex, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for effective pain relief. 

The good news is that you have treatment options, and our team at Expert Pain in Houston, Texas, is here to help. Ioannis Skaribas, MD, DABA, FASA, specializes in radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a minimally invasive procedure that can provide the lasting relief you’re seeking.

Here’s how radiofrequency ablation works and what you can expect during a RFA procedure for chronic pain.

When to consider radiofrequency ablation for pain management

Radiofrequency ablation uses heat from radio waves to target the specific nerves that are causing your chronic pain. Treatment disrupts pain signals traveling to your brain, effectively reducing or eliminating the pain you feel.

Dr. Skaribas often recommends RFA for people who have chronic pain that hasn’t responded well to other treatments, such as medication, physical therapy, or nerve blocks. You might be a good candidate if you have chronic back or neck pain, especially if the pain stems from facet joint issues, spinal arthritis, or nerve conditions.

Dr. Skaribas can help you decide whether radiofrequency ablation is right for you with a comprehensive health evaluation. He reviews your medical history, performs a physical exam, and may recommend a diagnostic nerve block to determine if RFA might be effective for you.

Before your radiofrequency ablation procedure

If you choose RFA for chronic pain management, our team gives you specific instructions in the days leading up to your procedure. These may include stopping certain medications or fasting after midnight on the day of the procedure.

You should also arrange for transportation to and from your appointment. Because you will likely receive sedation, you will need someone to drive you home.

During your radiofrequency ablation procedure

We perform RFA on an outpatient basis, meaning you can go home the same day. The procedure typically takes 30-90 minutes, depending on the number and location of nerves that require treatment.

We start by administering a local anesthetic to numb the area and possibly a sedative to help you relax. You lie on an examination table in a position that allows Dr. Skaribas to access the treatment area.

Using X-ray or ultrasound guidance, Dr. Skaribas inserts a thin needle into the treatment area and carefully positions it in place. Then, he sends a radiofrequency current through electrodes at the needle's tip to stimulate the nerve and create a lesion that disrupts pain signals.

He repeats the process for each nerve that he’s treating.

After your radiofrequency ablation procedure

We monitor you for a short time to make sure there are no immediate complications. Once you’re stable, you can go home.

It's normal to experience some soreness or discomfort at the treatment site for a few days. Over-the-counter pain relievers and ice packs can help manage this. You should avoid strenuous activities for at least 24 hours, but most people can resume normal activities within a few days.

We schedule a follow-up appointment after your RFA procedure to assess your response to the treatment and discuss any further pain management strategies. It’s important to attend your follow-up visit, and be sure to ask any questions you have about the process along the way.

Radiofrequency ablation can offer significant relief from chronic pain — particularly when other treatments have failed. Find out if you’re a good candidate with a consultation at Expert Pain. Call our office at 325-648-0871 or request an appointment online now.

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