A radiofrequency neurotomy or “Rhizotomy” is a type of injection procedure used to treat joint pain caused by arthritis, other degenerative changes, or from an injury.
In this procedure, a heat lesion is created on certain nerves with the goal of interrupting the pain signals to the brain, thus eliminating pain.
The terms radiofrequency ablation and radiofrequency neurotomy are used interchangeably. Both terms refer to a procedure that destroys the functionality of the nerve using radiofrequency energy.
Before Performing a Rhizotomy
A medial branch block must always be performed BEFORE a Rhizotomy as the block is a diagnostic tool to identify the specific joint causing the pain. This nerve block is a procedure in which an anesthetic is injected near small medial nerves connected to a specific joint. Typically several of these are injected in one procedure as each joint has two nerves that go to it.
If the patient experiences marked pain relief immediately after the injection, then the joint is determined to be the source of the patient’s pain.
As the procedure is primarily diagnostic, meaning that if the patient has the appropriate duration of pain relief after the nerve block, then he or she may be a candidate for a rhizotomy for longer term pain relief.
There are two primary types of radiofrequency ablation:
A medial branch neurotomy (ablation) affects the nerves carrying pain from the facet joints. A lateral branch neurotomy (ablation) affects nerves that carry pain from the sacroiliac joints
These medial or lateral branch nerves do not control any muscles or sensation in the arms or legs, so a heat lesion poses little danger of negatively affecting those areas. The medial branch nerves do control small muscles in the neck and mid or low back, but loss of these nerves has not proved harmful.
Burning nerves that picks up sensation from joints. This procedure is done if medications, pain creams, physical therapy, and joint injections do not provide long term relief. Joint Rhiozotomy normal last anywhere from 8-16 months.