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Lumbar Radiofrequency Ablation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Oct 3, 2022.

What do I need to know about lumbar radiofrequency ablation?

Lumbar radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a procedure used to treat facet joint pain in your lower back. Facet joints are found at the back of each vertebra. A needle electrode is used to send electrical currents to the nerves in your facet joint. The electrical currents create heat that damages the nerve so it cannot send pain signals.

How do I prepare for lumbar RFA?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for this procedure. You may be told to not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your procedure. Your provider will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your procedure.

What will happen during lumbar RFA?

  • You will lie on your stomach. You will be given local anesthesia to numb the area of your back where the needle electrode will be inserted. You may be given a sedative to help keep you relaxed. You may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure, but you should not feel any pain. Your healthcare provider will use fluoroscopy (a type of x-ray) to guide the needle electrode to the nerves near your facet joint.
  • Your healthcare provider may touch the affected nerve to make sure the needle electrode is in the right place. You will feel tingling or pressure when your provider does this. Your provider will then apply local anesthesia to the nerve to numb it. This will prevent you from feeling pain when your provider applies heat to the nerve. Your provider will then apply heat to the nerve using the needle electrode. Your provider may need to apply heat to more than one nerve. Your provider will remove the needle electrode and apply a bandage over the area.

What are the risks of lumbar RFA?

You may have pain, numbness, tingling, or burning in the area where the lumbar RFA was done. These normally go away within 6 weeks. The needle electrode may injure your spinal nerves. This may cause permanent leg weakness or nerve pain.

Care Agreement

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Further information

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