Radiofrequency neurolysis can be used on different nerve locations to cause nerve ablation or destruction that targets certain nerves that are responsible for pain. The nerves that are destroyed are the cause of your pain.

Diagnosis involves performing a diagnostic facet injection or diagnostic nerve injection to determine if these facets produce pain. Our certified fluoroscopic suite provides fluoroscopic guidance for diagnostic injections. Using a small needle, a small amount of numbing medication is injected into the nerves that may be causing the pain.

Whether or not those specific areas are the causes of your pain is determined by evaluating the results of pain improvement and function improvement as they relate to that pain.

Patients who have been diagnosed as such can consider Radiofrequency Neurolysis. Thousands of these procedures have been performed in this office without any complications and this is a very safe procedure. There is always a risk of nerve injury and problems with nerve stimulation, but because we have used multiple x-ray images and preoperative stimulation, we have never experienced any complications with this procedure.

Neurodestructive surgery is similar to injections of nerves, except that radiofrequency waves are used to move the nerve cells, which heats them up and causes them to self-destruct. Due to its highly selective nature, a more specific lesioning process is caused than using just thermal heat.

Facts and Information About RFN

Facet syndrome, and neck and back pain caused by damage to spine joints are common complaints treated with RFN.

There are two types of headaches caused by neck joint damage called cervicogenic headaches and occipital headaches that can be treated with RFN.

In addition to treating SI dysfunction, RFN can also treat hip, groin, and leg pain related to the sacroiliac joint (SI).

This treatment disrupts the generation of pain signals from the knee by the genicular nerve and is therefore effective in treating knee pain.

The use of radiofrequency is thought to offer an effective method of treating shoulder pain, as it disrupts the suprascapular nerve and stops pain signals from the shoulder.

How is RFN done?

The area overlying the area to be treated is numbed with medication before the procedure begins. Radiofrequency needles are usually injected alongside nerves under X-ray guidance. Using heat, this needle deadens the nerve, preventing the nerve from transmitting pain signals.

Outpatient radiofrequency neurolysis is performed. According to the number of joints to be treated, the procedure can take between 15 and 30 minutes. Following the procedure, there is a 30-45 minute observation period. The procedure can temporarily result in numbness or minor burning. RFN’s full benefits will not start to be felt for 2-4 weeks.

How often should this procedure be done?

Once RFN has been completed, most people report seeing benefits. In spite of the possibility of regeneration and growth back of nerves after RFN treatment, this usually takes a long time, anywhere from 6 to 12 months. Repeating the procedure, if necessary, can take up to a year.

What are the expected results?

Over a third of patients still experience significant pain relief one year after treatment, according to studies. Those who have been treating their pain for two years or longer may experience lasting relief. In some cases, RFN treatment enables patients to postpone or avoid surgery and the inconvenience of an extended recovery period. Many years of research and experience have proven how safe this procedure is.

Long-term Relief without Surgery or Downtime

Whenever there is an issue with a joint, your body creates pain as a signal. The joints connect two bones and provide the body with both support and flexibility. Despite their toughness, they are prone to damage caused by overuse, injuries, or arthritic conditions.

A mild injury to the joint can grow into a severe problem and lead to constant pain. A painful joint or joints need to be stopped from sending pain signals. In order to achieve this, one of the treatments is Radiofrequency neurolysis (RFN), also known as Radiofrequency neurotomy or Radio frequency ablation.

How you prepare

You may need to have more tests or be referred to a pain specialist before your doctor can determine whether you are a good candidate for radiofrequency neurotomy. Often, if a procedure targets the same nerves that cause your pain, a test will be done to determine if those nerves are involved. Injections of numbing medication are given into the precise spots where the needles will be inserted. Radiation may help you alleviate your pain if it significantly reduces in those spots. Your doctor may, however, determine that a different procedure is required to address your symptoms.

Final words

Radiation frequency neurolysis (RFN) treats joints of the facet or sacroiliac joint. Radiation neurotomy, rhizotomy, and neuroablation can also be used to describe this process.

A series of diagnostic tests are performed before radiofrequency is applied to determine if a patient is a good candidate for it. An electrical current is passed through a cannula from a radiofrequency generator to treat specific nerve endings in the RF procedure. During coagulation, proteins in the nerve tissue remain intact. Thermal coagulation also called a “lesion”, interrupts the signals that cause pain. The treatment area is numbed with a local anesthetic, and X-ray guidance ensures the needle is positioned properly. There is one heating cycle per nerve involving about 90 seconds of actual heat. The injection of steroids (cortisone-like long-acting medication) can reduce inflammation. Pain relief is usually immediate but can also take several weeks to resolve. In the area where the treatment was performed is not uncommon to feel sensitive or ‘burned’ for a couple of weeks afterward. This is not a permanent effect. Typically, pain relief is experienced within four to 20 months after treatment. After nerve tissue has been removed, it can potentially be replaced and repeated again if needed.


There is very little risk of complications. Lack of adequate pain relief is the worst-case scenario. Still, bleeding and infection are among the complications described in the literature. Typically, 60% to 80% of the procedures succeed. There is a possibility of regrowth of nerves even if the small nerves have been destroyed permanently. Patients rarely need to undergo further radiofrequency treatment in the future. A pain reduction period of between 34 months and life is typical.