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Mark A. Wolgin, MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon

Specialist (Fellowship Trained) in Spinal and Foot/Ankle Surgery, Albany, GA, Office Phone 229-883-4707

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Radiofrequency Ablation
(burning the nerve to the facet joint)
 
 
 
 
For patients with arthritic facet joints, an option for treatment of that pain is to do a procedure which involves burning the nerves that provide sensation to those arthritic joints. 
 
This procedure is called radiofrequency ablation
 
To define these terms a bit more:
 
radiofrequency refers to a high frequency alternating electrical current.
 
ablation means tissue destruction...in this case, the nerves to the arthritic joints.
 
Each facet joint receives a small nerve branch (called the medial branch) from the nerve above and the nerve below that particular facet joint.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Special needles are used to transmit the electrical energy to these small nerves.  The needles are insulated, except at the very tip.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By delivering the electrical energy near these small sensory nerves, they can be rendered dysfunctional thus providing relief of the pain from arthritic facet joints for upwards of 6-12 months.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Other FAQ's:
 
Does this procedure hurt?
Usually very little.  First, most patients have some sedative with an anesthetist present, so they are very calm and often remember very little of the procedure.  There is a small pinch for the local anesthetic before the needle is introduced through the skin.
 
How do you know you don't burn a more important nerve?
The nerve is stimulated to be sure there is not pain or muscle stimulation down the leg before the ablation process is started.  If there is even a hint of pain down the leg, the position of the ablation needle is changed.