Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures for the Cervical and Lumbar Spine

Offered in East Orange and Newark, NJ

Also known as rhizotomy, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that is a viable treatment option for patients who’ve experienced successful diagnostic nerve or pain receptor block injections. In Newark, New Jersey, Prospect Spine and Pain (PSP) offers cervical and lumbar RFA procedures to qualified patients, which are administered by Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn, a board-certified and fellowship-trained Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) physician. Learn more about how Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn can determine the root of your pain and whether RFA procedures or our other treatment options are right for you.

Please note: RFA is not intended for those who are pregnant, have bleeding problems, or have an infection.

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat generated by radio waves to target specific nerves and disrupt their ability to transmit pain signals. It is an effective solution for patients who have not found relief from conventional pain medication or physical therapy.

What Conditions Does Radiofrequency Ablation Treat?

RFA is a versatile treatment that can address various conditions affecting the spinal cord, including spinal stenosis, lumbar radiculopathy, lumbar stenosis, and disc herniation. It can also be used to alleviate neck pain caused by problems in the cervical spine.

This treatment utilizes radiofrequency waves to burn or ablate the nerve fibers that create pain in arthritic joints. At Prospect Spine and Pain, it is most frequently used to treat patients with chronic cervical and lumbar spine pain or conditions such as the following:

  • Spondylosis
  • Facet arthritis
  • Sacroiliitis
  • Traumatic injuries and prior spine injuries
  • And more

To determine a patient’s candidacy for an RFA procedure, Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn first identifies the source of the pain, relying on medical imaging, specialized examination techniques, and anesthetic blocks to form an accurate diagnosis. She will also eliminate other potential causes for the patient’s symptoms to ensure an RFA procedure is the right pain management modality for their unique case.

How Does Radiofrequency Ablation Work?

By diminishing or ceasing the transmission of nerve fibers that create pain emanating from joints, RFA has the potential to provide long-lasting relief for qualified candidates. By targeting and destroying the nerve fibers that send pain signals to the brain, these signals are then disrupted, providing pain relief without the need for spinal surgery. The maximal effect usually occurs six weeks after the procedure. Other benefits of this procedure include:

  • Enhanced function
  • Less dependence on pain medication
  • Little to no recovery time
  • Faster return to work and activities

What Should I Expect During My RFA Procedure?

When patients arrive for a Radiofrequency Ablation (RFA) procedure, they can expect to be greeted by a team of compassionate, experienced healthcare professionals who will guide them through the process. Prior to the procedure, a thorough consultation is conducted to discuss the patient’s medical history and the specifics of the treatment plan. The actual RFA procedure is minimally invasive and typically takes less than an hour to complete.

First, the injection site’s skin is sterilized and numbed with a local anesthetic. Under fluoroscopic guidance, Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn then carries out the RFA procedure with these steps:

  • An anesthetic numbing medication is injected into the skin and deeper tissues to improve the patient’s comfort.
  • Utilizing a real-time x-ray, a hollow, thin needle is accurately placed onto the affected area.
  • Accurate placement is tested by checking motor and sensory nerves to make sure only the appropriate nerve fibers are targeted.
  • An anesthetic is then placed to reduce pain associated with the burning aspect of the procedure.
  • A radiofrequency current is then delivered through the needle.
  • The current creates a lesion (a precise, small burn) to eliminate the nerve fibers that transmit pain signals from the region affected to the brain.

The entire radiofrequency ablation procedure can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, with results typically lasting for nine to 24 months or even longer in some cases. Patients may experience discomfort from its residual effects in the weeks after the procedure, but pain relief usually begins within ten days. Immediately following, patients are observed for a brief period. If IV sedation is used, the patient cannot drive themselves home. RFA procedures can be repeated if Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn deems it necessary, as some patients’ nerve fibers re-grow at the burn site in the six months to one year after the initial procedure.

The Benefits of RFA Treatment Options

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a versatile and potent treatment modality used to address a wide array of medical conditions. If you want to treat issues with your lumbar vertebrae, cervical spine, and posterior longitudinal ligament, you experience the following benefits:

  • Minimally Invasive: As a minimally invasive procedure, RFA reduces the risk of infection, promotes quicker healing, and allows patients to resume their normal activities swiftly. This makes it an appealing alternative to open surgery or conservative treatments.
  • Targeted Pain Relief: RFA targets specific nerve roots, providing significant pain relief without affecting other tissues. This precision is particularly beneficial in managing conditions like spinal stenosis, lumbar radiculopathy, and disc herniations.
  • Versatility: The procedure’s versatility is evident in its application across various medical fields. It has been utilized for treating colorectal liver metastases, non-small cell lung cancers, cardiac arrhythmias, and hepatocellular carcinoma. In the realm of spinal health, it’s particularly effective in treating cervical and lumbar conditions.
  • Complementary Treatment: RFA can be complementary to other treatments, such as liver transplantation and hepatectomy in the case of hepatocellular carcinoma. This flexibility allows healthcare providers to create tailored treatment plans for individual patients.
  • Economic and Clinical Benefits: Economic and clinical evaluations have shown RFA to be a cost-effective treatment option. For instance, endometrial RFA has proven to be economically advantageous compared to other ablation techniques for treating menorrhagia.

Schedule a Consultation for Lumbar or Cervical Radiofrequency Ablation

To learn more about radiofrequency ablation procedures or our other minimally invasive pain procedures, contact the Prospect Spine and Pain (PSP) team today. We’ll be happy to schedule a consultation with Dr. Maria Cabodevilla-Conn, during which she will diagnose your pain and design a customized treatment plan, which may include RFA.