Trigeminal Radiofrequency

What is Trigeminal RF?

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is usually caused by irritation of the trigeminal nerve. The trigeminal nerve is the cranial nerve which supplies sensation to the face. Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a minimally invasive procedure that targets the trigeminal nerve, altering its ability to transmit pain signals to your brain and therefore reduce the pain. Radiofrequency ablation is a good option for severe pain in high-risk patients that would make an open surgical procedure too dangerous. Radiofrequency ablation is a common percutaneous procedure used to treat Trigeminal neuralgia, especially in elderly patients.

Radiofrequency ablation has some distinct advantages over the other approaches. It can be administered as either pulsed or lesion. Intraoperative sensory and motor testing can be performed. The needle is smaller in calibre and therefore is less traumatic. It is performed as a day procedure and patients recover well to go home the same day.

Prior to your procedure:

  • Once your admission has been arranged you will be notified of the details in writing. Prior to your admission to hospital we 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.
  • 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 someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours following the procedure

What Will Happen?

  1.  You will be admitted to hospital and meet with a doctor for an evaluation. If he recommends radiofrequency ablation (RFA), a doctor will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. The doctor will also answer any questions you may have.
  2. An intravenous (IV) line may be placed in a vein in your arm before the procedure and a local anaesthetic and mild sedative may be used to reduce any discomfort during Radiofrequency ablation.
  3. The surgeon passes an electrode introducer (hollow needle) through the skin of your cheek into the selected nerve at the base of the skull. A heating current, which is passed through the electrode, is applied to the nerve fibres. The entire nerve is not destroyed. Trigeminal RF can cause mild to moderate numbness in that area. A degree of facial numbness is not an unexpected outcome of the procedure and is necessary to achieve long-term pain relief.

Post Procedure:

  • Post operatively patients are monitored for several hours. If pain is well controlled and the patient is safe to do so they can usually return home the same day as the procedure takes place
  • Patients may have some cheek pain or swelling/bruising at the needle insertion site. This usually resolves within one week.
  • While adjusting to the numbness, you should be careful when eating or drinking hot foods/liquids, and chewing. A soft diet is often recommended for the first few days.
  • You will need to bring someone with you to drive you home after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery for at least 24 hours following the procedure
  • It is recommend that you do not engage in any strenuous activity for the first 24 hours after the procedure.
  • Your surgeon will see you for an outpatient follow-up in 4 -6 weeks
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