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(Rhizotomy) Radio Frequency Ablation

What is a Rhizotomy?

A rhizotomy(or radiofrequency treatments) sends radio waves (heat) through a needle to stun small sensory nerve endings and reduce pain signals. The procedure is only recommended to those patients who have short term good response to specific interventions such as medial branch blocks or facet joint injections. Rhizotomy is considered to be most effective in carefully selected patients. Some patients report pain relief up to two years after the procedure. Since nerve endings have a tendency to grow back, the pain will probably return at some time in the future. Fortunately the procedure can be repeated if necessary.

Who will be performing the procedure?

A highly trained interventional radiologist will be performing this procedure accompanied by a nurse or radiographer to ensure you are receiving the highest quality care.

Before the procedure

If you are diabetic, be sure to discuss your eating and medication schedule with your doctor. You may need to stop taking certain medications several days before the procedure. Please remind the doctor of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take, including herbal and vitamin supplements. The doctor will tell you if and when you need to discontinue the medications. Tell the doctor if you develop a cold, fever, or flu symptoms before your scheduled appointment.

During the procedure

Rhizotomy treatments are an outpatient procedure performed in Imaging Central’s state of the art CT suite. The area of skin on your neck or back will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution and the doctor will inject some numbing medicine (local anaesthetic) into the skin that may cause a burning sensation for a few seconds. After the numbing medicine takes effect and with the assistance of a planning CT scan, the radiologist will insert a special radiofrequency needle. You will feel some dull pressure but not pain. After confirming that the needle tip position is correct from CT scan, an electrode is passed through the inside of the needle. Using electrical stimulation, the doctor will verify the correct nerve. You will feel a tingling sensation similar to hitting your “funny bone”. You may also experience some muscle twitching. The tissues surrounding the needle tip are then heated when an electric current is passed using the radiofrequency machine for 90 to 120 seconds. This will numb the nerves. After the procedure, we ask that you remain at the Clinic until the doctor feels you are ready to leave.

After the procedure

After the procedure, you may experience some muscle soreness for a few days. If so, you may want to apply ice or a cold compress to the affected area. Depending on how you feel, you may resume normal activities and return to work the following day. If the doctor prescribes physical therapy, it is very important that you continue with the physical therapy program.

Procedure risks

The risks include: bruising and bleeding at the injection site; infection at the injection site; damage to nerves or blood vessels near the targeted nerve. These risks may be less likely when the treatment is performed under CT guidance by our specialist radiologists compared to other imaging techniques for performing a rhizotomy.


Bookings are required for this procedure.

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