Radiofrequency Neurotomy (RF)

RF is the only definitive treatment for validated facet joint pain.  The process involves placing a radio frequency cannula beside the nerve to the facet joint and heating the nerve sufficiently to stop it transmitting pain messages for between 9 and 15 months.  The nerve may regrow over this period, just as many tissues in the body regrow after injury.


 Not Everybody Can Have the RF Procedure

Those excluded are: 

  • Pregnant.
  • Have infection about the index site.
  • Are unwell.
  • Those who cannot give consent. 

Those who may be excluded are: 

  • Those with a pacemaker.
  • Those with anatomy that makes x-ray images difficult to interpret and so makes the procedure unsafe. This includes posterior cervical fusion.
  • Those with lung, heart disease or immunosuppressed.
  • Those who poorly tolerate pain.
  • Those allergic to contrast or local anaesthetic. 

The procedure is usually without pain and no sedation is required.  It is important that the patient remains conversant throughout the procedure.  The procedure usually takes between 1-1.5 hours.

You will remain for 30 minutes following the procedure to be observed.  You will not be able to drive home following.  This is purely a safety precaution in case there is a sense of feeling unwell or faint.  When you get home, we suggest an ice pack on the treated area for 20 minutes, 3-4 times a day for the next 1-2 days.  Do not apply heat packs.  Do not take a bath, but you may shower 24 hours after the procedure, the shower being set to warm.


Side Effects 

The overall incidents of side effects are 1% and these are regarded as minor complications.  These include pain at the site of the procedure lasting for two weeks, it’s uncommon beyond this time.  There can be a numbness of the area of the procedure, transient giddiness, and sunburn type pain, particularly in the upper neck which settles over several weeks.  Infection is rare as are allergic reactions to medications or antiseptic solutions. 

There is no evidence that being pain free after the procedure will cause any further injury to the affected area.