Cervical Facet Radiofrequency Neurotomy

This minimally-invasive procedure, also called radiofrequency (or RF) rhizotomy, reduces or eliminates the pain of damaged facet joints by disrupting the medial branch nerves that carry the pain signals. This procedure is performed with local anesthetic.

How is the procedure performed?

A cervical facet radiofrequency neurotomy begins with sterilization of the neck and shoulder. The physician inserts local anesthesia to numb the tissue down to the spinal column. A fluoroscope (type of x-ray) is used to guide a cannula (needle-like tube) to the irritated medial branch nerves. A radiofrequency electrode is inserted through the cannula. The electrode’s position is measured by a weak electric current that is administered through the cannula.

They physician uses the electrode to head and cauterize the nerve. This disrupts its ability to communicate with the brain, blocking the pain signals. Multiple nerves may require treatment. The electrode and cannula are removed, and the injection site is covered with a small bandage. Although pain may increase for the first week after the procedure, the patient has full relief from pain within a month. Successful RF neurotomies can last longer than steroid block injections.