Radiofrequency Treatment

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Dr Chow Chow

Key Points

  1. Radiofrequency Treatment is one of the common minimally invasive day procedures for pain reduction.

  2. It is used in conjunction with Fluoroscopy and/or Ultrasound.

  3. Common target areas include low back pain, neck pain and peripheral nerve pain.

  4. Most people noticed pain reduction from 3-6 weeks to 9-24 months following the procedure.

Radiofrequency treatment could be used as continuous or pulsing. Commonly used synonyms for “neurotomy” include “ablation”, “denervation” and “lesion”.

What is Radiofrequency Treatment?

Radiofrequency treatment uses heat generated by radio waves to the targeted nerves and temporarily turn off their ability to send pain signals.  It can provide lasting pain reduction for people living with pain. Continuous radiofrequency treatment uses high heat (80-85°C) to desensitise the nerve, while pulsed radiofrequency uses low heat (42°C) to modulate the pain signal.

It is a minimally invasive procedure that a needle is placed under the fluoroscopy (or “X-ray”) or ultrasound guidance, with an emphasis on safety using several views or dynamic movement, to confirm the depth and to avoid important structures, such as blood vessels. This procedure is commonly performed in an operating theatre to minimise the risk of infection and to allow an experienced anaesthetist to provide adequate sedation during the radiofrequency treatment. 

Radiofrequency treatment is usually perform to reduce pain that complement to medications and physical therapy. Sometimes, radiofrequency treatment is suggested when surgery is postponed or when surgery is not an option.

Common Target Area

  1. Low back pain due to osteoarthritis, facet degenerative changes, radiating leg pain, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, intervertebral disc changes, sympathetic dysfunction

  2. Neck pain due to osteoarthritis, facet degenerative changes, radiating arm pain.

  3. Knee pain

  4. Hip pain

  5. Groin pain

  6. Headache with greater occipital nerve dysfunction

  7. Peripheral nerve pain

How do I feel after the procedure?

Most people can be discharged after the treatment on the same day. However, someone has to drive you home. Some people might experience pain flares from the procedure, up to 14 days, which is due to muscle spasm or the inflammation of the targeted nerve (“neuritis”). Some people have temporary numbness within 24 hours due to the local anaesthetic effect. People are normally return back to work in 24-72 hours. Significant pain reduction is normally noticed between 10 days to 3 weeks, sometimes longer, and potentially last from 9 months to 2 years.

As the aim of the radiofrequency treatment is to regulate the nerve conduction, it is possible that the nerve will “regrow”, which could happen between 6-12 months, depending on the person. This procedure can be repeated if needed. 

Not sure if you are a candidate for the radiofrequency treatment? Talk to your pain specialist to see if you are eligible. You will need a comprehensive biopsychocial assessment with recent imaging studies to plan the best location for the procedure. Check out “First Appointment” to find out what you should do before the consultation. 

Photo by JC Gellidon 

Here’s An Easy Way to Show You Care

Thank you for your kind referral, please also fax us a copy of patient’s health summary with their current medication and medical history at (02) 8088 7877

PO Box 18 Roslyn Street, Potts Point 2011 NSW
Phone 02 8866 1393
Fax 02 8088 7877
Healthlink: tzechowc


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