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3 Phases of Radiofrequency Ablation

 3 Phases of Radiofrequency Ablation

Your nervous system is your body’s (incredibly complex) communication system. From top to toe, it tells your brain everything that’s happening inside and outside your body. 

Unfortunately, your nerves aren’t perfect; sometimes, they send faulty signals telling your brain you’re in pain. When that’s the case, you need a treatment that blocks the errant signals and keeps you from experiencing symptoms. 

That’s exactly what radiofrequency ablation does. 

This minimally invasive procedure “shuts off” malfunctioning nerves so you feel less pain. In this blog, Dr. Raul Lopez and our West Texas Pain Institute team walk you through the three phases of radiofrequency ablation: preparation, needle placement, and ablation. 

Phase 1: Preparation

Radiofrequency ablation is a relatively simple procedure, and there’s not much involved with preparation. When you arrive, you lie down on our X-ray table. Once you’re comfortable, we clean the injection site and inject a local anesthetic to make sure you don’t feel anything while we work. 

Most of our patients remain awake during the procedure, but we can offer a sedative to help you stay completely relaxed. 

Phase 2: Needle placement

With the injection site cleaned and numbed, we move on to the needle placement phase. Dr. Lopez uses a special type of X-ray called fluoroscopy to guide a hollow needle directly to the affected nerve. The X-ray uses a contrast dye that illuminates your nerves and helps us see exactly where the needle should go. 

Then, we thread a thin wire through the hollow needle and prepare for the ablation phase. 

Phase 3: Ablation

Ablation simply means to remove, destroy, or “reprogram” abnormal tissue or parts of the body. To ablate your malfunctioning nerve, we feed radiofrequency energy through the wire into your nerve to heat and destroy it. 

In a matter of seconds, the heat switches off the pain signals and stops your nerves from communicating with your brain. 

Recovering from radiofrequency ablation

Because it’s minimally invasive, you don’t have to worry about spending downtime in a hospital or at home. We do recommend that you have a friend or family member drive you home, and you should take a day or two off to rest. 

Depending on your needs, we customize your at-home care instructions. 

Many of our patients notice almost immediate pain relief; others experience gradual pain relief over a couple of weeks. 

Pain relief can last anywhere from 6-12 months, while some are fortunate enough to enjoy multiple years of pain relief. 

The ideal candidate

The ideal candidate for radiofrequency ablation suffers from neurological pain. Neurological pain occurs when your nerves are damaged or malfunctioning. 

We diagnose neurological pain with a nerve block. Nerve blocks work similarly to radiofrequency ablation in that they interfere with how your nerves communicate with your brain, but nerve blocks don’t heat and destroy your nerves. 

If a nerve block works to relieve your pain, we know you have neurological pain. We typically use radiofrequency ablation to treat lower back, neck, and joint neurological pain. 

As long as you’re also in good health and not pregnant, radiofrequency ablation should be an option for you. 

If you’d like to learn more about radiofrequency ablation and see if you’re a candidate, use our online booking tool to schedule a consultation or talk to an expert at our El Paso, Texas, office today.

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