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Facet Joint Ablation

Facet Radiofrequency Ablation

Facet joint nerve ablation, also referred to as facet radiofrequency ablation, is a procedure used to purposefully disrupt nerves in your spinal column that provide sensation to spinal joints called facet joints. This intentional tissue ablation helps relieve facet joint-related pain (facet joint disease) by blocking the nerves’ ability to relay pain signals to your brain.

Benefits of Facet Joint Ablation

Roughly 70 percent of people who undergo radiofrequency ablation experience significant reductions in their nerve-related pain symptoms. Depending on your individual circumstances, the procedure can disrupt pain signaling in the targeted nerves for anywhere from 3 months to more than a year and a half. However, most people who benefit from the procedure experience symptom relief that lasts for approximately six to nine months. Eventually, your medial branch nerves will heal and start producing pain signals again if the health of your facet joints has not improved. If necessary, your doctor can repeat facet nerve ablation and provide you with additional periods of symptom relief.

To determine if you are a candidate for a Facet Joint Ablation Procedure, contact one of our Patient Care Managers at 877.474.2225. If you have already seen a physician, send us a copy of your recent MRI or CT for review using the form on this page.

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Details of the Facet Joint Ablation

Your facet joints form connection points for the sections of your spinal bones (vertebrae) that sit behind your spinal canal. They help your spinal column withstand the forces of gravity and allow you to maintain normal range of back motion. Medial branch nerves, which are connected to the facet joints, supply sensation to the joints themselves. Unlike some of the other nerves in your body, the tiny medial branch nerves have limited processing abilities, and can only send pain signals to your brain when activated.

Facet joint nerve ablation is typically achieved through the application of focused radio waves, also called radiofrequency waves, to the tissues of the medial branch nerves. During an ablation procedure, your doctor will use X-ray imagery to guide a thin, hollow device called a cannula or introducer needle through your skin to the medial branch nerves associated with your damaged facet joint. After confirming proper placement of the cannula, he will pass a radiofrequency-conducting tip through its interior. Next, he will attach this tip to a machine that generates radio waves, then use the focused energy from these waves to burn the targeted nerves in bursts that last roughly 90 seconds. Typically, your doctor will ablate multiple areas on any given nerve in order to ensure it is fully desensitized.

Facet joint nerve ablation is typically a fairly safe procedure. However, it can potentially produce complications that your physician will counsel you on prior to the procedure. You are usually not a good candidate for the procedure if you have an ongoing infection or uncontrolled high blood sugar.

Preparing for the Facet Joint Ablation

Before receiving a facet joint ablation procedure, most physicians will require an MRI or CT-scan to get a better idea of what could be causing the pain. Often, physicians will first administer a type of injection called a Medial Branch Block, targeted specifically at the medial branch nerves at the facet joint, to determine whether an ablation is necessary. This injection may be administered once, or several times prior to moving on to a facet nerve ablation. A facet joint ablation is often just one portion of the conservative treatment method a physician may suggest to treat back or neck pain. Other methods include physical therapy and chiropractic adjustments. If these conservative methods have not produced meaningful, long-lasting relief, you may be a candidate for a surgical North American Spine procedure.

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Facet Joint Ablation Recovery

Most patients will be able to return to normal activities the next day, though the procedural site may have some dull soreness. Side effects and risks are rare. Your physician will counsel you on these risks prior to the procedure and will provide additional recovery guidelines.

To determine if you are a candidate for a facet joint nerve ablation, contact us anytime at 877.474.2225 or submit a form on this page.

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Barbara D.

Condition: Herniated Disc

Procedure: ACDF

“Almost all of my symptoms have resolved and I have full use of everything.”

"My quality of life was falling fast with the inability to use both of my arms and hands due to numbness...I am still in the healing process, however life is great now. Almost all of my symptoms have resolved and I have full use of everything. I can grab something and actually hold onto it."

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Some of our former patients have been kind enough to offer to speak with back and neck pain sufferers who are looking into treatment options. We encourage you to take them up on it! After we determine a treatment plan, we’ll connect you with a past patient who had a similar condition and procedure.

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