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Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Denervation
What is Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Denervation?
Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Denervation is a procedure used to treat neck pain. The cervical facet refers to a part of the vertebra in the neck through which nerve fibers arise from the spinal cord. Radiofrequency denervation is a procedure similar to a nerve block but that utilizes radiofrequency and offers a long term solution to pain.
Who needs Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Denervation?
Wear and tear of the cervical facets occurs with advancing age and constant movement of the neck, which can lead to pain during movement of the neck joints. While painkillers may help relieve the pain, in some cases the pain can persist despite maximal medical treatment. In such cases, nerve blocks can be performed that block the conduction of pain signals through the nerves around the facet joints.
The aim of radiofrequency denervation is to provide long-term pain relief. These effects can last for a few months up to a couple of years but sometimes the pain can return as the nerve fibers grow again. In such cases, a repeat procedure may need to be performed.
What are the steps in Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Denervation?
Preparing for the Procedure
This procedure may take up to half an hour to perform. You may be offered mild sedation during the procedure.
Numbing the Skin
After isolating the cervical facet joint that is causing the pain using an x-ray, the skin that covers the area is numbed with a local anesthetic.
Inserting the Needle
Using X-ray or fluoroscopic guidance, your surgeon will insert a tiny needle through the numbed skin, all the way to the cervical facet joint.
Administering Radiofrequency Waves
Radiofrequency waves, in the form of a tiny electric current passed through the needle, are then administered. These waves generate heat and destroy the nerve fibers that are causing the pain.
Once the nerve fibers have been destroyed, a small amount of steroids may be injected to help reduce any inflammation that may occur.
Following the procedure, the patients are observed and subsequently discharged home. Patients may feel mild tingling or numbness in the area where the procedure was performed. This is normal and passes after a short while. It is advised that a family member or friend take the patient home as the sedation takes time to wear off and driving is a risky.
Patients may experience mild amount of bleeding and bruising at the site of the procedure. Allergic reactions are rare and usually towards the medication used rather than the procedure itself. Radiofrequency denervation should be avoided if patients are suffering from an active infection or are on blood thinning medication.
It can take anywhere between a month to 6 weeks to recover fully following the procedure. Patients are recommended to rest for at least a couple of days before embarking on any sort of physical activity. When doing so, activities should be light and easy to perform for a few days before attempting anything strenuous.