Ok, I am almost embarrassed to ask this but I need to know so here it goes. My doctor has encouraged me to have a procedure that will kill nerves causing lower back pain. My question is, is this going to affect any other nerves that serve a very important purpose. May sound silly but my husband is quite concerned.
Radiofrequency ablation is performed to destroy the median nerves that supply the facet joints in the spine. This procedure is done in the same way as an epidural steroid injection. The doctor does it under fluoroscopy so he can see where the needle is being placed. There is an electrode that is attached at the tip of the needle. When the doctor confirms that this probe is located exactly where he wants it, that is, on the nerve that is causing the pain and not on anything else, a current is supplied and it uses heat to "deactivate" the nerve tissue, which deadens the pain signal.
Of course you will already have had the tests to determine which area is the pain generator. There are two nerves that lead to the facet joint so two needles will be needed for the procedure. Any other nerves should not be affected in the least.
After the procedure, the hope is that with rest, physical therapy to make the tissue surrounding the facet joint stronger and the desensitization of the nerve, the pain will stay away.
It can be, but it usually lasts anywhere from a few months to two years. I think it is primarily used to treat nerve pain from degenerative disc disease (facet joints) and the sacroiliac joints.
The medial branch nerves in the facet joints and the lateral branch nerves in the SI joints do not control any sensation or movement in the arms and legs, so they can be safely burned without causing any issues in those areas. They do control sensation in small patches of the neck or back but loss of feeling in these areas hasn't proven to be a problem.