In some types of chronic pain, radiofrequency ablation can disable nerve fibers that are carrying the pain signal through the spinal cord to the brain. In the right patients, about 70% of RFA procedures provide pain relief that lasts for a year or more. The technique may be useful for some people living with chronic arthritis or degenerative back and neck problems. 

This procedure involves inserting a needle like probe above and below certain problematic nerves that use an electrical signal to ablate (burn) the nerves sending pain signals to the brain. Depending on the area being treated, this procedure is done under either CT or ultrasound guidance and with local anesthetic.  

While there is also typically a up to a week of discomfort around the procedure area, this will fade and is quite effective as a treatment.  

Local anesthetics and contrast media can cause allergic reactions. The following symptoms can occur as possible side effects of injecting a cortisone preparation: calf cramps, slight weight gain, slight increase in blood sugar or blood pressure, acne, increased brittleness of smaller vessels with the occurrence of bruises and menstrual disorders in women. Due to the low local amount of cortisone, general cortisone side effects are only to be expected in exceptional cases.

After the injection, you may experience temporary numbness and weakness in the leg. This is a dose-dependent effect of the local anesthetic and usually resolves completely within 24 hours. Since the local anesthetic can prolong your reaction time, you should not actively participate in road traffic during this time - an escort for the way home is recommended!

Blood thinning medications may need to be stopped for a period of days, or your normal dose reduced, before this procedure is carried out. It is very important that you do not stop any of these medications or change the dose without consulting both the radiology clinic or department and your own doctor. They will give you specific instructions about when to stop and restart the medication. These drugs are usually prescribed to prevent stroke or heart attack so it is very important that you do not stop taking them without being instructed to do so by your doctor or the radiology practice, or both. Aspirin is usually not stopped.

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