What is Thoracic Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy?

Overview

During this minimally-invasive procedure, the provider uses heat from radio waves to treat painful facet joints in your upper back. This procedure is also called radiofrequency rhizotomy. It can treat pain that doesn’t respond to medications or to physical therapy.

Preparation

In preparation for the procedure, you lie on your stomach. You are given medicine to make you feel relaxed. The skin and tissue of your back is numbed.

Inserting the Cannula

The provider inserts a tube called a “cannula.” A video x-ray device called a “fluoroscope” helps guide the cannula to the medial branch nerves in your spine. These tiny nerves carry pain signals from your facet joints to your brain.

Treating the Nerves

The provider inserts an electrode through the cannula. A weak electric jolt is used to test its position. If the jolt recreates the pain but does not cause any other muscular effects, it is positioned correctly. Then the provider uses the electrode to heat the nerve. This disrupts its ability to transmit pain signals. Several nerves may be treated if necessary.

End of Procedure

When the procedure is complete, the electrode and cannula are removed. A small bandage is placed on your skin. You will be monitored for a brief time before you are allowed to go home.