Radiofrequency (RF) lesioning is a safe, proven means of treating chronic pain. Continuous radiofrequency current is used to heat a small volume of nerve tissue, thereby disrupting pain signals from that specific area. This procedure has a selective effect on nerve fibres, reducing pain in target areas, but leaving other sensory capabilities intact.
A Typical RF Procedure
A doctor will perform an RF lesioning procedure in a clinical setting. Both local anesthesia and a mild sedative may be used to reduce any discomfort during the procedure. The patient will need to be awake and alert during both the sensory and motor stimulation process to help the doctor pinpoint where to properly place the lesioning electrode. Under x-ray guidance, the doctor will then place a small needle into the general area where the patient is experiencing pain. An electrode is inserted through the needle to begin the stimulation process. This will help the doctor determine if the electrode is in the optimal treatment area to maximize pain relief.
Once the needle and electrode placement is verified, treatment is ready to begin. RF current will flow through the electrode into the surrounding tissue. This causes the tissue to heat, which eliminates the pain pathways.
Another treatment option the doctor may consider is pulsed RF therapy. In contrast to RF lesioning, pulsed RF delivers short bursts of RF current, instead of a continuous RF flow. This allows the tissue to cool slightly between each burst, significantly reducing the risk of destroying nearby tissue. Because pulsed RF therapy does not rely on heat to relieve pain, the doctor can use this method to treat a wider range of painful areas, including peripheral nerves and near critical structures.
A Typical Pulsed RF Procedure
A pulsed RF procedure is also performed in a clinical setting. Unlike RF lesioning, pulsed RF is virtually painless, so the patient will not need anaesthetic. The doctor will use x-ray to insert a needle into the general area where the patient is feeling pain. The doctor will then place an electrode through the needle and perform sensory stimulation, if necessary. Motor stimulation is not required for pulsed RF procedures.
Pulsed RF is then applied to the target area to disrupt pain signals. Activation of pulsed RF enables the doctor to select the optimal pulse widths and frequencies that will provide the patient with the highest level of pain relief.
This information above is provided as a guide only.