Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation (or RFA) is a procedure used to reduce pain. An electrical current produced by a radio wave is used to heat up a small area of nerve tissue, thereby decreasing pain signals from that specific area.

Please pay close attention to the following information/instructions:

If you are currently on antibiotics or being treated for an infection, please call the office prior to your injection appointment.


You have been scheduled for a Radiofrequency Ablation. This procedure is performed after diagnostic medial branch injection is performed and it is determined (with a reasonable degree of certainty) that facet joints are the source of individuals back pain. Radiofrequency ablation procedure uses radio-magnetic waves to stop the lumbar medial branch nerve from transmitting pain signals from the facet joints to the brain. Your interventional physiatrist will use an x-ray to direct specialized needles to specific medial branches. Exact location of the nerve is identified with a brief neuromuscular testing. Once the location of each needle is finalized, anesthetic is used and radiofrequency procedure is completed. Radiofrequency ablation procedure is performed to reduce cervical and lower back pain, improved flexibility, enhance function, enabling patient to pursue PT and return to work or leisure activities. At times, the presentation is on both sides in which case each side is treated separately.

We do not anticipate that you will experience any weakness or numbness in the extremities. Nevertheless, we advise that you refrain from driving the day of your procedure. Please bring a driver to your appointment, they must stay in the facility for the duration of the procedure.

MODERATE SEDATION: On the day of your appointment, we may ask you to refrain from eating or drinking 6 hours prior to your appointment time if you are receiving sedation. You may eat and drink immediately following your injection. If you take routine medications, you may take these on the day of your injection as scheduled with a small sip of water.

NO SEDATION: Please refrain from having a large meal prior to your appointment. You may have light food and/or beverages. You may eat and drink immediately following your injection. If you take routine medications, you may take these on the day of your injection as scheduled.

If you have anxiety about your scheduled office procedure and prefer to have a light sedative prescribed to take before your appointment, please notify our office at least 24 hours in advance. IV sedatives are available if your procedure is scheduled at Apex Surgical Center or Specialty Surgery Center of CNY.

If you are on any blood thinning medications (Plavix®, Coumadin®, Aggrenox®, Lovenox®, Xarelto®, aspirin), please notify our office so that we may give you specific instructions about the length of time you need to discontinue these medications.


Depending on the area treated, a superficial burning pain with hypersensitivity, similar to a sunburn feeling may be experienced. Sometimes a slight numbness of the skin over the same area may also be experienced.

An ice pack may be used intermittently to numb the pain and reduce swelling on the injection site. Ice packs must be used for 15 to 20 minutes at a time with a break of at least two hours in between to avoid skin injury. Heat packs are usually not advised on the injection site after RFA.

Warm showers are preferred over baths for 1 to 2 days after the RFA procedure.

Pain relief after RFA is typically experienced 1 to 3 weeks after the injection.

It is advised to rest for several days before returning to normal activities. Patients may engage in regular activities but should let pain levels be their guide for the first few days. Since many patients have been de-conditioned over many months or years as a result of their pain, physicians might prescribe a guided physical therapy regimen to allow them to increase their strength and activity tolerance in a safe manner.

The radiofrequency ablation treatment is a relatively safe and low-risk procedure. However, some people may experience certain side effects and/or complications from this treatment. It is advised to discuss the potential risk of developing any adverse reactions or side effects of RFA with a doctor prior to this treatment.

Please feel free to make an appointment to discuss with your Doctor if you are a candidate for these services or contact one of our care representatives with questions at 315-451-5400.

Please play video for a more detailed understanding for what to expect during the procedure.