Facet Rhizotomy Procedure: What to Expect
A facet rhizotomy may help to relieve pain by "turning off" the pain signals the spine's facet joint(s) send to the brain. To help you prepare for the procedure:
- Your physician will give you detailed instructions about whether you can eat before the procedure.
- In most cases, you can continue to take your usual medications before a rhizotomy. However, make sure you discuss what medications you use with your physician before the procedure.
- Since a rhizotomy requires the use of a local anesthetic, you may need someone to drive you home after the procedure.
About the Procedure
The procedure begins with a mild sedative administered intravenously (by IV) to keep you comfortable but awake during the procedure. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the procedure site.
Your pain physician utilizes fluoroscopy (real time x-ray) to guide placement of the needle (electrode). Once the needle is in place, a mild electrical current stimulates the nerve and confirms its exact location. You may feel slight pressure or tingling during this part of the procedure. Then the electrode is heated to deaden the sensory nerves. When the procedure is completed, the needle is removed and the injection site is bandaged.
After the Procedure
You may experience some discomfort immediately after the procedure, such as bruising, soreness, or swelling at the injection site. Most patients are able to return to work and/or their normal daily activities the day following a facet rhizotomy.
Your back may be sore for a few days after the procedure. Usually cold therapy (eg, ice pack) and/or over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help ease post-procedure symptoms. Soon, you should begin to notice an improvement in your usual pain. Improvement usually continues during the next several weeks.
Serious Complications are Rare
As part of your post-procedure instructions for recovery at home, your physician provides additional contact information should you experience any of the symptoms listed below. Should you experience any one of these symptoms, quickly contact your physician.
- Prolonged pain at the injection site
- Numbness that lasts more than 2-3 hours
- Bleeding or drainage at the injection site