Radiofrequency Lesioning

What is Radiofrequency Lesioning

Radiofrequency lesioning is a procedure that is performed to relieve pain. The procedure is often used for back, neck, or arm pain. Radiofrequency lesioning involves the use of a machine that creates radio waves to make heat.

During the procedure, the heat is applied to the nerve that carries the pain signal. The heat damages the nerve and interferes with the pain signal. Pain relief usually starts about 2 weeks after the procedure and lasts for 6 months to 1 year.

Tell a health care provider about:

  • Any allergies you have.
  • All medicines you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, eye drops, creams, and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Any problems you or family members have had with anesthetic medicines.
  • Any blood disorders you have.
  • Any surgeries you have had.
  • Any medical conditions you have.
  • Whether you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

What are the risks?

Generally, this is a safe procedure. However, problems may occur, including:

  • Pain or soreness at the injection site.
  • Infection at the injection site.
  • Damage to nerves or blood vessels.

What happens before the procedure?

  • Ask your health care provider about:
    • Changing or stopping your regular medicines. This is especially important if you are taking diabetes medicines or blood thinners.
    • Taking medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. These medicines can thin your blood. Do not take these medicines before your procedure if your health care provider instructs you not to.
  • Follow instructions from your health care provider about eating or drinking restrictions.
  • Plan to have someone take you home after the procedure.
  • If you go home right after the procedure, plan to have someone with you for 24 hours.

What happens during the procedure?

  • You will be given one or more of the following:
    • A medicine to help you relax (sedative).
    • A medicine to numb the area (local anesthetic).
  • You will be awake during the procedure. You will need to be able to talk with the health care provider during the procedure.
  • With the help of a type of X-ray (fluoroscopy), the health care provider will insert a radiofrequency needle into the area to be treated.
  • Next, a wire that carries the radio waves (electrode) will be put through the radiofrequency needle. An electrical pulse will be sent through the electrode to verify the correct nerve. You will feel a tingling sensation, and you may have muscle twitching.
  • Then, the tissue that is around the needle tip will be heated by an electric current that is passed using the radiofrequency machine. This will numb the nerves.
  • A bandage (dressing) will be put on the insertion area after the procedure is done.

The procedure may vary among health care providers and hospitals.

What happens after the procedure?

  • Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and blood oxygen level will be monitored often until the medicines you were given have worn off.
  • Return to your normal activities as directed by your health care provider.

Radiofrequency Lesioning, Care After

Refer to this sheet in the next few weeks. These instructions provide you with information about caring for yourself after your procedure. Your health care provider may also give you more specific instructions. Your treatment has been planned according to current medical practices, but problems sometimes occur. Call your health care provider if you have any problems or questions after your procedure.

What can I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, it is common to have:

  • Pain from the burned nerve.
  • Temporary numbness.

Follow these instructions at home:

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider what activities are safe for you.
  • Pay close attention to how you feel after the procedure. If you start to have pain, write down when it hurts and how it feels. This will help you and your health care provider to know if you need an additional treatment.
  • Check your needle insertion site every day for signs of infection. Watch for:
    • Redness, swelling, or pain.
    • Fluid, blood, or pus.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • Your pain does not get better.
  • You have redness, swelling, or pain at the needle insertion site.
  • You have fluid, blood, or pus coming from the needle insertion site.
  • You have a fever.

Get help right away if:

  • You develop sudden, severe pain.
  • You develop numbness or tingling near the procedure site that does not go away.
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