Facet Joint Radiofrequency

What is a Facet Joint RF?

Radiofrequency Facet Denervation is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat central neck or back pain caused by arthritis or injury to the facet joints. The facet joints are small joints at the back of your spine that help keep the spine straight.

Radiofrequency treatment is performed under sterile conditions in an operating theatre using mild sedation and / or local anaesthetics. Fluoroscopic x-ray guidance allows the operator to accurately position a needle (probe) near the site of the affected nerve or joint.

Prior to the procedure:

  • Once your admission has been arranged you will be notified of the details in writing. Prior to your admission to hospital a staff member will contact you by phone to confirm all of your admission details.
  • You will be required to fast (NIL BY MOUTH – including water) for 6 hours prior to surgery.
  • Shower the morning of your procedure
  • If you are on aspirin or blood thinning medication such as Disprin, Plavix and Asasantin; or fish oil or krill oil you need to cease this medication 7 days prior to your admission.
  • You will need to bring ALL previous x-rays and scans

What will happen?

  1. You will be admitted to hospital and be seen by a neurosurgeon who specialises in these procedures.
  2. An intravenous (IV) line is often started so that relaxation medicine (sedation) can be given. The patient lies on a procedure table and the skin over the neck, mid-back, or low back is well cleaned.
  3. The surgeon numbs a small area of skin with numbing medicine (anaesthetic), which may sting for a few seconds.
  4. X-ray guidance (fluoroscopy) is used to direct a special (radiofrequency) needle alongside the medial or of the facet joint
  5. A small amount of electrical current is often carefully passed through the needle to assure it is next to the target nerve and a safe distance from other nerves.
  6. The targeted nerves will then be numbed to minimize pain while the lesion is being created.
  7. The radiofrequency waves are introduced to heat the tip of the needle and a heat lesion is created on the nerve to disrupt the nerve’s ability to send pain signals.
  8. This process will be repeated for additional nerves.

Post procedure:

  • You will be discharged from the hospital within two hours and may resume normal activities on the following day. Simple analgesics are often required for a few days.
  • You will allowed to engage in normal activity, but should let pain levels be their guide for the first few days
  • Patients usually will want to rest for several days before returning to normal activities, although there are not any technical restrictions.
  • Nerves regenerate after radiofrequency facet joint denervation. (Approximately between six months and two years). Your pain may return when the nerve regenerates and procedure may need to be repeated
  • If you have any issues, you should contact your treating neurosurgeon.