Radiofrequency Neurotomy for Facet Joint Pain

What is Radiofrequency Neurotomy?

Radiofrequency Neurotomy (RFN) is the process where a special needle is used to heat and damage the nerve that provides sensation to the facet joints in the neck and back. It can provide prolonged pain relief for neck and low back pain. Prior to a Radiofrequency Neurotomy, a Medial Branch Block injection has normally been performed to prove pain is coming from the facet joints.

How long will I be in hospital?

The procedure is performed as a day procedure. You will need a relative or friend to bring you into hospital and to take you home and supervise you overnight.

Pain following the procedure:

It is common to experience some bruising and tenderness at the needle puncture sites (2 or 3 puncture sites are normally used). Your pain doctor will inject local anaesthetic in the area to reduce pain after the procedure.

It is normal to have an increase in your underlying neck or low back pain after the procedure (a “flare-up”). Normally this lasts 3-10 days. Pain flare-up can last longer, sometimes up to 6-8 weeks. Longer pain flare-ups are more common for RFN in the neck. It is common to have skin sensitivity like sunburn over the pain area for a similar period of time. In rare cases pain flare-ups, and skin sensitivity can be prolonged but this is unusual.

To help make the procedure more tolerable, we perform one side at a time. This reduces pain considerably.

We will arrange a script for extra take home pain killers on the day if it is required.

What complications can occur?

In addition to what is described in this handout, please refer to the Spinal Injection Information sheet.

How is the procedure performed?

The procedure is performed under X-Ray. You will be lying face down on some pillows. An anaesthetist will provide sedation for your procedure.

Care after the procedure.

NIPM nursing staff will routinely contact you the day after your procedure to check on your progress.

A follow up appointment will always be arranged for you to be reviewed by your pain doctor 4-8 weeks after the procedure.

If you experience any severe pain, leg weakness or numbness, fevers, chills, severe headaches, bleeding /discharge from the wounds, or if you have any other concerns then please contact NIPM or the Day Hospital centre. If for some reason it is not possible to get in touch, please see your GP or attend your local emergency department for assessment.