Radiofrequency Neurotomy

Information for Patients

Radiofrequency neurotomy is used for those patients who suffer from facet joint pain and have a positive response to medial branch blocks. Facet joints are the small joints at the back of the spine, they contribute to back pain in approximately 40 – 50% of patients, even higher in elderly patients.

This procedure involves the electrical burning of the nerve to the small joints to the back of my spine (facet joints) and is for spinal pain. The radiofrequency current is generated at the end of the radiofrequency needle. When placed close to a nerve the current changes the nerve. The nerves physiology is altered and it stops transmitting pain impulses.

On average most patients get three to nine months relief of pain with most patients getting on average six months of relief. Some patients however get minimal relief from the procedure.

This procedure is performed as a day patient. You will be prepared for theatre and placed in a theatre gown. Once you are on the operating table, the anaesthetist will place a cannulae in your arm and sedative drugs will be administered.

The procedure is performed under sterile conditions. Local anaesthetic is then injected into the projected needle path. Following this a radiofrequency needle is guided under x-ray control to the point where the nerve to the facet joint predictably runs. The nerve is then exposed to the radiofrequency current. 

Cervical Spine

Before your procedure

  • Have nothing to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to the procedure
  • Arrange for an adult to escort you home by car
  • Please notify your doctor if you are taking any blood thinning medications

Following your procedure

  • You will usually be discharged after two hours
  • Do not drive or operate heavy  machinery
  • You will have minor bruising and pain around the injection site
  • Please make an appointment to see me 2 – 4 weeks following the procedure

Complications of Radiofrequency Neurotomy

  • Pain and bruising over the injection site
  • Potential risk of nerve and spinal cord injury
  • Potential risk of introduction of infection
  • Bleeding into the spinal area
  • No or partial response to the procedure
  • A temporary exacerbation of pain due to irritation of nerves after the burning procedure