Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy

 

Many people experience an occasional bout of neck pain, perhaps from sleeping in an awkward position or spending too many hours on the computer. While most recover from their discomfort within a day or two, in other cases, a person's neck pain is chronic, usually due to an injury or illness. For those looking to end suffering chronic neck pain, cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy is a procedure performed by a pain specialist that may help.

A person may suffer chronic neck pain stemming from a variety of issues. Some of these issues include:

  • Direct trauma to the cervical region
  • A pinched nerve
  • Osteoarthritis
  • A herniated or bulging cervical disc

If a person has neck pain that lasts more than a few weeks, it is essential to receive a qualified physician's diagnosis to determine the issue's nature. In most cases, a physician will initially recommend conservative treatments such as pain relievers or physical therapy. However, in some cases, these treatments are not enough to relieve a patient's pain. It is at this point that a physician may recommend further pain-relieving therapies.

Suppose a physician determines that a patient's pain is coming from their cervical spine's (facet) joints. In that case, they may recommend a procedure designed to stop the pain signals from the affected area from traveling to the brain. This procedure is referred to as a cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy is also known as cervical facet radiofrequency ablation, or cervical facet radiofrequency rhizotomy.

The procedure delivers a high heat level to the nerve(s) in the injured area from radio waves, thus creating a small lesion on the nerve. The nerves are then unable to deliver their pain signals to the spinal cord and brain, thus leaving the patient without the sensation of pain in their affected cervical joints. Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy is used to treat pain that doesn't respond to medications or physical therapy.

A cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. Many patients require only a local anesthetic and are fully awake during the process, although they may ask for intravenous medication if they prefer.

Preparation
In preparation for the procedure, you lie on your stomach. You are given medicine to make you feel relaxed. The skin and tissue of your neck are numbed.
Inserting the Cannula
The pain specialist inserts a tube called a "cannula." A video x-ray device called a "fluoroscope" helps guide the cannula to the medial branch nerves in your spine. These tiny nerves carry pain signals from your facet joints to your brain.
Treating the Nerves
The physician inserts an electrode through the cannula. A weak electric jolt is used to test its position. If the jolt recreates the pain but does not cause any other muscular effects, it is positioned correctly. Then the physician uses the electrode to heat the nerve. This disrupts its ability to transmit pain signals. Several nerves may be treated if necessary.
End of Procedure
When the procedure is complete, the electrode and cannula are removed. A small bandage is placed on your skin. You will be monitored for a brief time before you are allowed to go home. Your injection site may feel sore after the procedure, and you may still have neck pain. If the right nerves were treated, you would gradually experience pain relief as you heal over the next several weeks. Your relief may last for several months.
Aftercare
Patients are kept for a short period after the procedure in case they experience any adverse side effects. Patients are advised to have transportation arrangements for a ride home after the procedure and a plan to avoid excessive activity for the rest of the day. Over the next several days, they may gradually increase their activity levels. While it can take a full month before patients feel entirely free of pain, on average, a person can expect 6-24 months of pain relief before the nerve repairs itself and begins once again to send pain signals to the brain.

If you’ve been experiencing pain for 3-6 months and your primary doctor is unable to diagnose the cause of the pain or is unsure how to treat it, ask for a referral to a pain specialist. If you are suffering from chronic cervical pain stemming from joint issues, we can help. Please contact The Pain Center to schedule a consultation.

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Our entire practice revolves around helping patients feel better. Pain is a fact of life, until it interferes with the joys of living. Sandra Thompson, MD and The Pain Center have innovative and comprehensive solutions to all forms of discomfort.

All insurances accepted.

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Boise Fax: (208) 342-4223

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Caldwell Fax: (208) 455-5190

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  • Boise: 633 N. 4th St. Boise, ID 83702
  • Caldwell: 1825 S Kimball Ave, Caldwell, ID 83605