Text Size: A A A
SpineUniverse Community Advice
Get help and share your story with others who know what you're going through.
Please register or log in to join the discussions!

Radio Frequency Ablation

From: Bill M - on 07/13/2011 12:40pm

I have been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease since 2005. I have had a number of epidural injections that have had limited success. I have had (3)surgical consultations with recommendations for spinal fusion. I am resisting that solution. I have gone thru chiropractic, deep tissue message and accupuncture with short term relief. My recent adventure is with radio frequency ablation or RF ablation. The procedure involved identification of the pain source with a steroid injection to the facet joints near L4-L5. If successful, the process is repeated to confirm location. If comfirmed the nerves in the area are deadened with a high frequency signal.
Does anyone have any experience with this procedure? Success/failure? How long did it last? Any side effects?

Do you find this discussion helpful?
-1

21 Responses

Like/Dislike
2
on 07/13/2011 10:47pm

My wife had this procedure done several years ago with great success. She had both her neck
(C 3-4) and back done (not sure where but lumbar). We called it a Radiofrequency Neurotomy or Ablation and she had it done to her neck 3 or 4 times because it would wear off after a few months.
She had the lumbar area done twice. It has helped her a lot. She still has pain but no where near as bad as it was.
The one thing no one mentioned to her that you should be aware of is to take sufficient amounts of Ibuprofen or Tylenol (or both) after the procedure to help with pain relief. It took a few days to settle down.
I hope this helps.

Like/Dislike
1
on 07/13/2011 10:51pm

Hi Bill, I have had the radio frequency ablation twice. I have a very good pain management doctor and she offered to try it. I have scoliosis and have had a fusion as a child. Recently my fusion has failed in one location, leaving me with chronic, and constant severe pain in one lumbar spot. My doctor did the first part of the procedure, which is to determine which nerve is actually causing the pain and she got it on the first try. The doctor looks at a screen that shows her exactly where the needle is going in. Once she established which nerve it was then we were ready to do the ablation with the radio frequency. It was not an awful procedure at all and she talked to me the whole time, explaining what she was doing. It took about 20 minutes total. It does feel like a needle going in but is tolerable. When I left the office I really thought it was working. My pain was gone ! But then after about 4 days it began to come back slowly. I was so disappointed. By the 10th day it was hurting just like before. She explained to me that the steroids she used along with the procedure were likely the reason for the pain relief. When they disappeared the pain returned. After six months I asked her to try it again, and asked if she could turn up the frequency in the machine. She agreed to try that. My theory was that since she had found the exact nerve, maybe it just needed to be blasted a bit more. The same exact thing happened the second time. Disappointment again !

I know that the procedure does help some people. It didn't for me. It's worth a try though. Find a really good pain management doc for it . Mine is an anesthesiologist. One other suggestion -- don't fall for prolotherapy !! I believe that it is totally a sham !! It cost me $800 and was useless!

Hope this helps you. Best of luck. I'm back on strong meds again.

Like/Dislike
0
on 07/14/2011 9:00am

I told my doctor no more surgery or tests because of the sugical clips in my head. It is such a painful coarse of action to take just for the testing. Just get me out of pain. I have everything in the book and have tried everything. Now I am thinking about this procedure. I am wondering if anyone out there has surgical clips anywhere in there body and if they had the radio frequency amblation done and how it turned out for them.

Like/Dislike
0
on 07/14/2011 9:00am

I told my doctor no more surgery or tests because of the sugical clips in my head. It is such a painful coarse of action to take just for the testing. Just get me out of pain. I have everything in the book and have tried everything. Now I am thinking about this procedure. I am wondering if anyone out there has surgical clips anywhere in there body and if they had the radio frequency amblation done and how it turned out for them.

Like/Dislike
1
on 07/14/2011 9:06pm

I had the exact same proceedures i.e. steroid injections to decrease the pain as well as to map my pain. I too have degenerative disc disease. I am 55 & have fought headaches, neck & upper back pain since my mid 20's. I have tried every therapy possible--can't tell you how many years in physical therapy, chiropractors, reflexology, accupuncture, yoga & probably more. My pain was low back, but more so neck pain. My neck got to the point that my right fingers would be numb. That is when I knew I needed a different kind of help. My C3, C4, C5, C6, &C7 were not only buldged, but ruptured & had desiccation(dried up). My brother had cervical fusion last year. I knew I did not want that. I had the ablation on March 16, 2011. I am almost PAIN FREE. For about 3 months after the ablation, I had SEVERE muscle spasms in my neck & upper back. They are now gone.

Like/Dislike
2
on 07/16/2011 11:06am

I had RFL a year ago & it worked for me, but it lasts a year or less, so it's a temporary fix. Now I'm back where I started. My sister-in-law had it done & it did nothing for her, so it works on some people & not on others. No side effects other than pain at the injection site for a few days.

Like/Dislike
3
on 07/18/2011 2:05am

Mr Bill, I posted a comment just 5 minutes ago but it probably got lost due to some network problem. First of all, I'll like to introduce myself as a pain management consultant. After reading your history, I'll like to assure you that RF ablation of facet nerves after confirming them to be the source of your pain is an evidence based approach. This intervention performed by a qualified and trained doctor is an absolutely safe procedure with very good results and no harmful sequlae.

Like/Dislike
0
on 07/22/2011 8:58am

I had it done on the lumbar area with great success and on the neck with no success.

Like/Dislike
0
on 07/26/2011 12:31pm

I had the Radio Frequency Ablation procedure done yesterday. The anasthesia really knocked me out. I had some immediate reduction in pain, but it seems to have leveled off. The pain seems a little different, but certainly not gone. The doctor said it should take a couple of days to subside. When will you know if the procedure is a succes or failure? If it improves a small amount when can they redo the procedure in the same place?I continue to take the pain meds, but in smaller doses. I remain cautiously optimistic.

Like/Dislike
1
on 09/18/2011 8:06am

Hi Bill, Would you do this? Look up the word ARACHNOIDITIS. Google it and read what it says. PLEASE, Janice

Like/Dislike
1
on 03/19/2012 8:54am

Bill,

I had the procedure done twice. The second time was about 3 months after the first try. There were NO negative effects from it. It is not a really painful procedure. There is some pain for a quick moment when the physician is trying to determine which nerve is causing the pain. When the anesthesiologist who did my procedure got the exact nerve that is causing my pain, I did feel like lifting up off of the table because she hit the correct nerve right on. I jerked and she recorded that nerve as the one we wanted. Then she began the attempt at nerve root ablation. It didn't work for me. I wish it had. I have always really wanted to just zap the one nerve causing my pain so I can get off of the medications I take daily for chronic pain. I wish the nerve could be radiated more because I know the doctor did find the right nerve .....it just wouldn't be deadened for some reason! So now I am forced to take very strong meds, which I hate to take . If there is a physician monitoring this who has a suggestion, I would love to hear it ! You could save me a lot of money and get me off of the drugs !

Like/Dislike
0
on 03/29/2012 7:09am

I had a 4 level bi-lateral Facet Rihizotomy T12-T9 in Dec '11 (which is what I belive you are talking about) for SEVERE spasms and pain, I was going into lockdown everyday by 2pm from spasms and would just knock myself out with muscle relaxers. The diagnostic shots worked great for 10 days heck I felt 20 yrs yrs old. The procedure didn't take away very much of my pain compared to the diagnostic shots which was a big let down but got rid of 50% of the severity of my spasms. My pain Doc even said he had NEVER seen me so happy and went off most all pain meds quick. BTW I had T11-T12 fusion in Oct '09. Last wek I went to see a Dr (#8 or 9) in Raleigh who was the former head of UNC Spine Center after 2 more surgeries in Florida last month, laminectomoy and foraminotomy (I think that is spelled right) Anyway he told me to forget getting out of pain as I have lost so much disc and am suffering structual failure that the next 5 levels up are trying to fuse themselves. Not what I wanted to hear but what I needed. He said take all the energy you have used trying to get well and work on your brain as I have let the last 7 yrs finally take a bad toll on me mentally the last few months and that there is life even with a bad Thoracic that says good morning I'm still here and good nite I tortured you again all day. I wish everybody on here a solution. I gotta go see my counselor and then my Pastor all before 10am to work on my noodle.

Like/Dislike
0
on 04/16/2012 4:18pm

hi bill Im useing a bone simulator it has fused my bones together. thats working great

Like/Dislike
0
on 04/27/2012 12:17pm

I wanted to post that I have had 41 SUCCESSFUL RADIO FREQUENCY ABLATIONS (RFA'S)
I am a chronic lumbar pain patient since 2002 and although the procedure needs to be repeated they have proven VERY successful. This however does NOT mean that I live without pain... I am posting just to share my experience with RFA procedures.

I have L5-Si moderate 1-2 spondylolisthesis which was diagnosed via MRI after I bulged a disc playing college tennis. After physical therapy I enjoying many more years of pain free living which included snow skiing every possible weekend and training in marital arts thru my college years. It wasn't until 2002 that my back pain reappeared and never went away. AFter MRI examination it was apparent that
the structural abnormality in my lumbar spine had caused abnormal wear on many of my other structures. MY Spondylolisthesis of L5-S1 causes a moderate to severe neural root impingement of the L5 nerve root... basically my L5 is chronically compressed. I no longer have a disc @ L5... my MRI interpretation reads, "bony endplates show wear".... along with this I have severe spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease and facet arthrosis on ALL my lumbar facet joints. The rest of my lumbar disc show some dehydration.. there are also bony spurs, etc.

Treatments: after initial epidurals not giving much pain relief I had FACET NERVE BLOCKS ON both sides of the lumbar spine.... (not at the same time, these were spaced apart)... it was evident that
I did in fact get marked relief from those blocks. The blocks are used as a diagnostic tool to help DETERMINE if one would be a candidate for radio frequency ablations. Essentially they are confirming that indeed the facet nerves are a cause of pain. As with many spinal conditions.... this does NOT mean they are the ONLY cause of pain. In many instances back pain is multi-factorial.

The nerves DO grow back; hence my history with 40+ ablations.

It is crucial these are performed within the safety protocol guidelines.
Again , I have had much success with ablations. Remember, after your nerves have been ablated it is important to rest appropriately. Some practioners with also inject MARCAINE (longer acting aesthetic) in addition to the steroid. This helps you feel more comfortable for 8-12 hours afterwards.. and is nice because you leave the procedure really really feeling relief... At this time the provider I see does not use Marcaine ( I moved and after 5 years of traveling for my procedures life gets complicated with children and I decided to switch to a pain physician where I reside now).. Also... the nerves don't just "die"... they are ablated and that is a process.I have been fortunate to have pretty much instant relief (after a day or so of increased pain from having a procedure to my spine) but sometimes it can take up to 2 full weeks for the painful sensation (burning, pulsating) to calm down. The first time this occurred I was upset to think that it didn't work; I was told to give a little more time and luckily that was all that was needed. I have NEVER had an ablation last me more that 5 months though..
PLEASE I URGE ANYONE who needs this procedure to make sure you are NOT given a sedative that makes you sleepy... that is not the safest protocol. You need to be able to communicate with your physician.. when he send the signals to the nerves you need to be able to let him know EXACTLY where you are feeling those... this confirms that they have the facet nerves and NOT any major spinal nerves...

IF THERE ARE ANY OTHER QUESTIONS OR CONCERNS FOR ANYONE WHO MAY BE GETTING THIS PROCEDURE DONE I CAN GO INTO FURTHER DETAIL....

BE WELL !!!

Like/Dislike
0
on 04/27/2012 4:05pm

RESPONSE TO SURFERGIRL- I have had the radio frequency ablation technique done twice. It was by a pain management doctor who regularly helps me with pain meds, but I want to find a way to get off the meds. I am in constant pain due to scoliosis since age 12, a fusion then (top to bottom ) and then when a portion of the fusion failed (at age 50) I began to have chronic pain, every day, all of the time and severe. The pain doc did manage to ascertain the exact nerve causing the pain. She even showed me the nerve in a picture she took with the fluroscopy (not sure of this term). I knew she had the exact nerve root because it felt like I lifted off the table 3 ft. She hit it exactly. I was actually elated because I thought then that the procedure might work.....was SO excited ! She then deadened the area, which was heaven for me....first time I'd been out of pain in years. But both procedures only reduced the pain while the lidocaine was in effect. By the next day I was right back at my regular pain level. My question to you is.....since you've had so much experience with this.....were some of your forty some procedures not as effective? like mine were ? Or did you have relief with every procedure? I'm wondering too if the radiation level can be turned up. For instance if she ...the doc....found the right nerve exactly......is it just that my nerves are harder to deaden ? I SO WISH I could get relief through this procedure ! I could get off of the huge amounts of heavy meds that I'm on. Any encouragement/advice is appreciated. And if any doctors/medical personnel moderate this site, please advise ?!! Barbara

Like/Dislike
0
on 05/20/2012 10:33am

Surfergirl - I saw your reply to this discussion and I am very interested in your situation as it sounds just like mine. I hope you see this and can respond. My question for you - I have had the radiofrequency nerve ablations done and just like you, they have worked very well for me. The first 2 times that I had them done, the doctor only did them on one side and never mentioned to me that they had to be done on both sides to have any relief. I was also sedated and the doctor didn't ask for very much feedback. Needless to say, I didn't get a very good response those 2 times. I went to a new pain management doctor because she did prolotherapy and I thought I would try that for awhile. I had 10 rounds at almost $500 each. I did get some inflammation relief but as soon as I tried to do anything around the house, I was in pain again. I went back to my pain management doctor and we tried the rhizotomies again on both sides spaced 2 weeks apart and with no sedation. The first side was done in June last year and the pain was gone immediately. The second side was done and my pain was severly increased. I think a nerve had been hit and I had neuritis. After several rounds on trigger point injections and time, it went away and I was pain free until mid-October.

The rhizotomy lasted exactly 4 months and then the pain came back radiating and hot. I could barely stand, sit or do anything unless I was taking at least 2 vicodin a day (which I didn't normally take). The doctor repeated it again in January 2012 on both sides, and it went perfectly. I was pain free by the time I got back in my car and went home. Now it is May again, and I am experiencing the same hot, radiating pain that is different from my normal back pain. My insurance only lets me do this twice a year so I can't go back until June 26th. I am back on the vicodin and Lyrica for pain management. I see my doctor this week and at this point, I am not sure if I should continue doing the rhizotomies. When I read other health boards, I hear about people getting relief but I don't usually see them doing it continuously and for long periods of time. Am I making it worse because the nerves are growing back in a haphazzard way? Are the needles creating more scar tissue due to the size that it will eventually cause more nerve impingement? My doctor keeps telling me that they usually last longer for people each time they do them but for me it is exactly 4 months each time. Can someone help me answer some of these questions?? I need to make a decision and I know it is up to me, but anyone who has some advice would be appreciated. I am surprised by all the pain management articles and websites that speak of this procedure but don't talk about possible long term complications or damage by repeating it over and over again. I have seen some comments on other healthboards though that have said, on x-ray, people who have done this done alot have severe scar tissue marks from the needles that are used. Thanks!

Like/Dislike
0
on 04/07/2013 2:24pm

Hi, i am not sure if it will help you, but i got a spinal cord stimulator and it masks the pain. There are different programs so you can work different areas of your body at once. There are different pulses so if you get used to one yoû can try a different one.

Although the stimulator helps, the nerve shooting up and down my left leg to my toes is a killer.

I an having the ablation done. Does anyone know how long between the first nerve and the second. The doctor just said two procedures and it should feel better a week or so after both nerves have been done.

Thanks for any help

Like/Dislike
0
on 04/07/2013 2:57pm

I have already posted a response but will update. I hate my Facet Joint Rhizotomy done on T12-T9 bi-lateral in Dec 2011. The relief I got from the I guess lidocaine diagnostic shots gave me practically 90% relief from my pain and spasms, so good I took myself off my 90mg (I think that was the amount I was on daily of Oxycodone in 12 days) for 2 weeks and then the pain/spasms returned so I went and had the right side done 1st on 4 levels as that is where my T12-T11 plate from my XLIF fusion is and then went back 2-3 weeks later and had the L side done. I wish I could say the Rhizotomy replicated the diagnostic nerve block that worked so well for the 2 weeks but it didn't but it did give me enough relief to justify it. My nerves are growing back it seems. Even after the Rhizotomy I still couldn't stand or sit for more than an hr on average before having to lay down/recline. My Thoracic XLIF caused me to loose over 50% of my disc the next 3-4 levels up in only 2 yrs. The procedure (Rhizotomy) is very low risk from what I have been told so....give it a go and good luck to us all

Like/Dislike
0
on 05/07/2013 4:15pm

I had 3 levels of my cervical spine done 4 weeks ago, I have had increased pain in my neck and upper back. Tightness, stiffness, loss of range of motion, headaches, pain up my neck into my head around the my forehead, in my temples. My eyesight is not as good either. I am very worried. I have been using ice packs and my tens unit to help. I see the nurse practitioner tomorrow and that can't come soon enough. Anyone else have something like that happen? If so, what did the doctor say and what kind of treatment was given? I am scared and worried that this is long term!

Like/Dislike
0
on 05/07/2013 7:04pm

Tamiann,
I'm not sure whether the procedure you had was an ablation or not ? Some mild side effects are possible, but I'm not aware of headaches. The important issue is that you be sure you are seeing a doctor who is experienced at these procedures and is an M.D. /anesthesiologist or someone with similar training.

There are a lot of "so-called" professionals out there who will tell you they can help you but in truth are not well trained in spine procedures. A really good pain management doctor could be helpful to you. Just be careful and read up on their reviews.

I wish you all the best and hopefully you will get good news tomorrow.
Barbara

Like/Dislike
0
on 09/18/2013 11:42am

I had this procedure done yesterday, itwas really uncomfortable when they would hit the nerve. Ive had it done in 4 places L5 and 3 more. Ive read on many posts that people usually stay in hospital 3days so that ur blood pressure can be monitored. They sent me home with nothing more but brufen??! I was misfortunate in the past year having gone through sciatic nerve infection so ive been receiving morphine on more than one occasion, so, brufen does nothing for me. Additionally, the sedation gave me during the procedure, didnt really work... Procedure lasted 45 mins, but i had to waitfor about 4hrs cuz once i changed into the hospital gown, i got so nervous i gave myself a fever of 38.6 so they had to draw my blood to check if i had a virus,cold,anything and after they drew the blood, i felt so sick and so dizzy. The nurse that insterted the cannula left the needle in and kept on pressing on it cuz she ciuldnt get enough blood for the blood test. After she was done, my whole neck and back were wet, i was in so my pain i sweated through the gown. They only did the 4 places and the doc said if ur pain stops, no need to do the rest, cuz he identified problems with 5 areas...i really hope i never go through this again, it was so arduousand i really suffered. I do have a question though for those who had this procedure to get rid of headaches:are the headaches completely gone? For me,odor is a very big factor-onion sends me to a 2day migraine, so does garlic and other strong aromas, i think nerve it only helps with tention headaches or am i wrong? Did anyone get sent home with brufen only like me?? Cuz even my doc told me there will be significant pain in the coming days. After all ive been through, brufen is like tic fac for me, unfortunately.

Cancel
Delete