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The 3 Steps of Radiofrequency Ablation

Nearly 20% of American adults — that’s about 50 million people — live with chronic pain. If you’re one of them, you know how frustrating the search for relief can be. Fortunately, there’s a way to disconnect the nerves in your body that are firing off pain signals. 

Sound too good to be true? Here, our team at West Texas Pain Institute led by Dr. Raul Lopez gives you an inside look at how radiofrequency ablation shuts down your pain.

Who can benefit from radiofrequency ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure we use to treat a wide range of chronic pain conditions. It harnesses the power of radiofrequency waves to heat and then remove (or ablate) malfunctioning nerves. This effectively turns off the flow of pain signals to your brain, giving you much-needed relief from your symptoms. 

Why radiofrequency waves? They’re powerful enough to target and eliminate your nerves but safe enough not to cause damage to your other tissues and cells. Radiofrequency waves are classified as non-ionizing radiation, which means they don’t have enough energy to compromise the health of your cells. In fact, you can find radiofrequency waves in everyday items like your WiFi router and smartphone. 

Some of the most common causes of chronic pain that radiofrequency ablation can treat include:

We conduct a thorough review of your symptoms and health history to determine if your pain stems from a nerve problem before recommending radiofrequency ablation. You may not be a candidate if you’re pregnant, have an infection, or have a bleeding problem. 

What happens during radiofrequency ablation?

Heating and destroying your nerves may sound like an aggressive approach, but radiofrequency ablation is actually a safe, simple, minimally invasive procedure. We complete it in the following steps. 

1. Preparation

To prepare for treatment, you first lie down on an X-ray table. Then, we administer a local anesthetic into the treatment area to keep you completely comfortable. Many of our patients remain awake during the procedure, but we can provide a sedative to help you feel more relaxed.

2. Needle and wire placement

Next, we use a special type of X-ray called fluoroscopy to guide a hollow needle directly to the affected nerve. Fluoroscopy uses a contrast dye that helps us see exactly where the needle needs to go. Once the hollow needle is in place, we guide a thin wire through the needle. 

3. Ablation

With both needle and wire in place, we release the radiofrequency energy. In a matter of seconds, the waves of energy heat and deaden your nerves and eliminate the source of your pain. Most enjoy pain relief for anywhere from nine months to two years. 

What happens after radiofrequency ablation?

Because radiofrequency ablation is minimally invasive, you should be able to get up and walk around right after your treatment. We do recommend that you ask a trusted friend or family member to drive you home. It’s also a good idea to take a day or two off of your normal routine as you may feel soreness or muscle spasms. We provide you with detailed aftercare instructions to help you manage any minor side effects. 

Want more information about how radiofrequency ablation can work for you? Call or click to schedule an appointment at our El Paso, Texas, office today. 

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When your nerves are on the fritz, you need something that restores order. Enter radiofrequency ablation. Keep reading to learn more about this simple procedure that keeps rogue nerves in check.