Rhizotomy (RFA) Treatment


A rhizotomy or RFA (radio frequency ablation) is a procedure that sends radio waves through a needle to reduce pain by stunning the small sensory nerve endings. The electrical current produced by the radio wave generates heat which then decreases pain signals from that specific region.

Rhizotomy treatments are recommended for patients with chronic pain or when other interventions such as facet joint injections only provide a short term response. The degree of pain relief often varies depending on where the pain is and what caused it. Pain relief from this procedure can last from 6 to 12 months and even longer in some cases.

The procedure can be repeated as necessary if the pain starts to return.

Who will be performing the rhizotomy?

Patients can expect to receive the highest quality care in our clinic. One of our highly trained interventional radiologists will be performing the procedure with the assistance of a nurse or radiographer.

Prior to the procedure

Patients are advised not to eat within at least six hours of their appointment. Notify your doctor immediately if you have a medical condition or are taking any medications including supplements. If you are taking certain medications, you may need to stop several days before the procedure.

Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you need to discontinue the use of any medications. If you are diabetic and using insulin, discuss your medication schedule with your doctor.

During the procedure

Rhizotomy treatments are outpatient procedures performed in our CT suite. Your doctor will explain the procedure in complete detail if radiofrequency ablation is recommended. An intravenous (IV) line may be given to reduce any discomfort during the procedure.

The area of your skin will be properly cleansed with an antiseptic solution before a local anaesthetic is injected to numb the area. You may experience a burning sensation for a few seconds following the injection. Our radiologist will then insert a special radiofrequency needle with the assistance of a CT scan.

Once the needle tip position is confirmed by the scan, an electrode is passed through the needle to start the stimulation process. A radio frequency current is then sent through the electrode which causes the tissue to heat. You may experience a tingling sensation during the procedure.

You should not feel any pain or discomfort but we may ask you to remain in our recovery room until the doctor allows you to leave.

After the procedure

Please have someone drive you home after the procedure is complete as patients are advised not to operate a motor vehicle for at least 24 hours. If you feel muscle soreness after the rhizotomy treatment is complete, you may apply ice or cold compress to the area affected.

Normal activities can be resumed the following day after the procedure depending on how you feel. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy in which case it is important to continue with the program.

Procedure risks

RFA is an effective form of treatment for certain types of pain. Risks of the procedure include infection or bleeding at the injection site. These complications are rare especially when the treatment is performed by our radiologist under CT guidance.