Radiofrequency neurotomy is a procedure to disable a spinal nerve so it can no longer send pain signals to the brain. This is done by using radiofrequency energy to heat the area around a medial branch nerve. These nerves are located near the facet joints, the joints on the back of the spine where two vertebrae come together. The heat disrupts the nerve’s ability to transmit pain.
Your doctor may recommend radiofrequency neurotomy to relieve ongoing neck, back, or hip pain that comes from a facet joint. If physical therapy or medication have not helped the pain, a diagnostic injection (shot) can be done to see if the pain is coming from a facet joint.
The diagnostic injection is called a medial branch nerve block. You are injected with a local anesthetic (nerve block) into a medial branch nerve near one or more facet joints. This is meant to stop the pain for a short time. If you feel pain relief from this injection, it’s a good indication that the pain may be coming from the facet joint. A doctor will usually perform two dignostic injections on separate days. Your doctor may then recommend radiofrequency neurotomy.
Radiofrequency neurotomy is used after patients have experienced pain for several months and have already tried other approaches, such as: