FAQ Radiofrequency Ablation
What is radiofrequency ablation?
Minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic surgery, shock wave lithotripsy, and radiofrequency ablation have allowed physicians to treat patients with minimal damage to tissues. These procedures are associated with better outcomes, faster recovery time, and improved patient satisfaction compared to traditional open-surgery techniques. Minimally invasive procedures are also preferred by hospitals and insurance corporations because of shorter in-patient stay.
Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses energy, rather than a scalpel, to destroy tissues, such as malignant tumors. Radiofrequency energy is used to heat up, and eventually ablate (destroy) the target areas of tissue. This procedure has been used with positive results in a wide variety of conditions.
How is radiofrequency ablation done?
RFA is an outpatient procedure usually done under local anesthesia. The patient may be given an oral or an intravenous sedative if further relaxation is needed. Similar to other surgical procedures, the sterile technique is observed for RFA. The needle injection site is scrubbed with an antiseptic solution such as povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine, and the surrounding area is draped with sterile linen.
The operation begins upon insertion of the needle-like probe through the skin. Insertion through the tissues is done under fluoroscopic (X-ray) guidance, although other imaging modalities such as computerized tomography (CT) scans and ultrasound scans have also been employed, with similar success rates.
The needle is guided until the target area is reached, and then the RFA probe is turned on. Initially, electric stimulation is done prior to the actual radiofrequency ablation. The electric sensation is described as a buzzing, tingling, or deep ache.
Once the Las Vegas Pain Management Doctor has determined that the probe is in the right place, a local anesthetic will be inserted. High-frequency electrical energy is then delivered through the RFA probe, heating up the surrounding tissue, causing damage and eventual cellular death.
The needle is then withdrawn, and the patient is kept under observation for approximately 20 minutes before being sent to the recovery room.
What conditions benefit from RFA?
RFA has found application in a wide range of conditions, particularly those that require precise removal of tissues with minimal damage to the surrounding areas. These include, but are not limited to, conditions such as:
- Malignancies – the need for open surgery has been reduced with the introduction of RFA to destroy malignant tissue.
- Varicose veins – RFA has been shown in some studies to be equally effective as the traditional open surgery techniques, with good outcomes.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – initial case studies have shown that RFA can be used in the treatment of OSA; however, further large scale studies are still needed to validate their effectiveness and safety.
- Cardiac arrhythmias – dysfunctional firing of cardiac tissues can cause arrhythmias (irregularities in the heartbeat) such as atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, premature ventricular contraction, among others. RFA has been very successful as a technique to destroy dysfunctional cardiac tissue while sparing neighboring areas.
- Pain management – RFA has also been used as a technique for surgical blocks. An initial diagnostic nerve block is done under local anesthesia before RFA is attempted. This procedure is indicated for patients who are suffering from back or neck pain due to arthritis in the facet joints of the spine. RFA is used to destroy neural tissue, disrupting the transmission of pain signals to the brain.
What are the risks of RFA?
RFA is a well-tolerated procedure that provides mostly excellent outcomes. The procedure has been established to be safe, having high success rates and low complication rates in populations like children and adolescents.
Success rates are varied, but for patients undergoing RFA for low back pain, around 60 to 80% would experience significant pain relief for as much as two years. Most would experience some form of pain alleviation, although for a shorter period. Some studies have shown that over 80% of patients undergoing RFA for cervical facet neurotomy can experience alleviation of pain after the procedure. Pain is usually relieved from nine to 14 months, or until the nerve regenerates.
However, similar to other surgical procedures, there are always risks present for the patient. These include the risk of infection at the surgical site, intraoperative damage to muscles, nerves and surrounding tissues, pain at the injection sites, bruising, bleeding, or hematoma formation. There is usually some swelling and bruising at the site of treatment, however this usually resolves after a few days.
The best pain center in Las Vegas is Nevada Pain. The center accepts over 50 insurances, achieving success rates over 95% with a combination of medical and interventional therapies.
Call (702) 323-0553 for more information and scheduling with the best neck and back pain treatment in Las Vegas!