What is Radiofrequency Ablation (RF)?

Radiofrequency ablation/lesioning is a procedure used to reduce certain kinds of chronic pain by preventing transmission of pain signals. It is a safe procedure in which a target portion of nerve tissue that carries painful impulses heated to cause a long-lasting interruption in pain signals and reduction of pain in that area. This technique is nicknamed the “RF” or “microwave” procedure.

Am I a candidate for the RF?

Continuous Radiofrequency is used to treat several causes of chronic back and neck pain, such as facet joint and sacroiliac joint diseases. Generally, patients who have difficulty sitting or standing for long periods of time, or movements such as bending, twisting, and standing from a sitting position may have facet joint or sacroiliac joint problems.

Pulsed Radiofrequency procedures have also been successful in treating conditions such as spinal stenosis, sciatica, herniated discs, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)/complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), frozen shoulders, and knee degeneration.

How long will it last?

If successful, the nerves are usually blocked for 6-8 months. Generally, patients who have responded well to diagnostic blocks, such as facet blocks and sacroiliac joint blocks, have better results.

What are the benefits of the RF?

Radiofrequency procedures have high success rates, are minimally invasive, have short recovery times, and have low complication rates. All procedures are performed in Dr. Lefkowitz’s office, and patients can leave the same day, usually within half an hour after the procedure.

How long does it take?

There is some minor pain involved, but Dr. Lefkowitz thoroughly numbs the skin and underlying tissue with local anesthetic using a very thin needle.

Can I be “put to sleep” for the RF procedure?

No. Dr. Lefkowitz performs the RF under local anesthesia, as it is necessary for you to be able to communicate with Dr. Lefkowitz during the procedure. However, Dr. Lefkowitz and his staff make great efforts to make the procedure as comfortable as possible for the patient.

What should I expect after the RF procedure? 

You may feel some initial muscle soreness for up to a week afterwards.

Should someone come with me to the office?

It is recommended that you bring a family member or friend, especially for the first procedure.

Can I return to work the next day?

Yes. You should be able to return to work. However, you may feel soreness for up to one week after the procedure.

How many radiofrequency procedures do I need to have?

Typically, radiofrequency procedures are repeated every 6-12 months as needed, as the effect may wear off as the nerves regenerate.

What are the risks and side effects of radiofrequency procedures?

Serious complications or side effects are very uncommon. However, as with any procedure, there is the possibility of adverse effects including soreness and bruising at the injection sites, potential damage to nerves and blood vessels, and electrical burns. Dr. Lefkowitz and his staff are highly trained and take great care to prevent complications.

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