What You Can Expect During a Radiofrequency Ablation Procedure

The Pain Institute of Southern Arizona (PISA) has a stellar team of board-certified pain management specialists who serve residents from 10 convenient locations in and around Tucson, Safford, and Benson, Arizona.

Patients greatly appreciate our medical expertise and our passion for providing pain relief with minimally invasive treatments that meet our rigorous standards for safety, quality, and effectiveness.

Radiofrequency ablation is one of the many services we offer to help you overcome the debilitating effects of joint, neck, and back pain.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a non-surgical, minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency waves to interrupt pain signals from certain nerves to the brain.

Delivered via specialized needles, the radiofrequency energy produces enough heat to temporarily damage the targeted nerves. This prevents your brain from recognizing the sensation and thus significantly reduces and often eliminates discomfort.

Because nerve endings eventually regenerate, RFA does not provide permanent pain control but typically remains effective for 6-12 months and may last for years in some cases.

What happens during radiofrequency ablation?

Your PISA provider discusses the procedure in detail before scheduling RFA and provides instructions regarding how to prepare. You may, for instance, be asked to temporarily hold certain medications on treatment day, pending approval from your primary care provider. We also typically ask that you arrange for someone to drive you home after RFA.

Otherwise, RFA is an outpatient procedure that does not require general anesthesia. Instead, we numb the targeted area to prevent discomfort at the treatment site and may also recommend intravenous (IV) sedation to keep you relaxed during the procedure.

Guided by advanced X-ray imaging, your provider then inserts the RFA needle into the targeted area and applies the radiofrequency waves to the pain-producing nerve. Most patients report little to no discomfort during RFA other than a mild tingling sensation or slight warmth.

What should I expect after radiofrequency ablation?

Our patients often report mild soreness at the treatment site for a couple of days but typically resume normal activities within 24-72 hours. We generally expect maximum pain relief within ten days, but many patients experience measurable results almost immediately.

Your provider will likely ask you to return for a follow-up visit to monitor your progress and the results of the RFA. Depending on the underlying cause of your pain, a comprehensive treatment strategy may include physical therapy and other rehabilitative therapies designed to restore your strength, flexibility, and mobility.

For more information about RFA or any of the pain management services we offer, schedule an evaluation at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona by calling the office nearest you.