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Radiofrequency Ablation

What is it?

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA), also known as radio frequency neurolysis, is a minimally invasive treatment option used to reduce pain commonly caused by osteoarthritis. The treatment desensitizes targeted nerves using radiowaves to provide pain relief.

RFA uses heat to lesion and desensitize (turn off) specific nerves in order to stop them from releasing pain signals from a joint. Since the lesioned nerve regrows very slowly, patients can enjoy long-term pain relief for months or even years at a time.

Before RFA is considered, a pain specialist may perform one of the following injections in order to find the specific joint that needs treatment

Which conditions is it used for?

RFA is a treatment offered when conservative treatments such as rest, medications, and physical therapy have failed to treat joint pain. This procedure provides long-term relief from joint pain in many areas of the body including the hips, knees, ankles and shoulders.

What does the procedure involve?

Before starting the RFA procedure, a local anaesthetic /numbing  injection is applied to the skin overlying the area that is being treated. X-ray guidance is used to place a special radio frequency needle alongside the nerve that is going to be treated. This needle uses heat to deaden the nerve and to stop it from releasing pain signals from leaving the joint.

This procedure is performed on a day-case procedure basis. The procedure typically requires 15 to 30 minutes. It is followed by 30 minutes of observed recovery time. After RFA, there may be temporary numbness or some mild burning. It may take 2-4 weeks before you feel the full benefits of RFA.

Can it be repeated? How often? 

RFA is usually effective after one treatment session. Although the nerves that are treated with RFA can regenerate and grow back, this often takes a long time, from 6 months up to 24 months. If necessary, the procedure can be repeated

every 6 months to 1 year.

 

What are the results?

Studies show that a majority of people have significant reduction in pain at 6 months and over a third of people maintain that level of relief at 1 year after treatment. Some individuals may have pain relief for up to two years and beyond. Some people treated with RFA improve considerably and are able to delay or avoid surgery and the inconvenience of a long recovery period. This procedure has been performed safely for many years, with excellent outcomes.

Is to covered by the GESY?

The procedure is fully covered by the GESY.