Radiofrequency (RF) Neurotomy

Radiofrequency (RF) Neurotomy

Radiofrequency (RF) neurotomy, also called radiofrequency rhizotomy, is performed to manage cervical or lumbar facet joint pain.  RF neurotomy is a type of spinal nerve injection therapy that uses heat to disrupt joint pain signals.  Dr. Jose Colon, MD may recommend a neurotomy when a specific facet joint nerve is identified by prior diagnostic spinal injection.  If the facet joint nerve cannot send a pain signal to the brain, you do not perceive pain in that joint.

  • Radiofrequency neurotomy utilizes radio wave technology.  Radio waves generate safe levels of heat and disables the facet nerve without harm to adjacent structures.  Often, two spinal levels are treated.  The entire procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
  • The results of RF neurotomy can provide relief from facet joint pain for a year or longer.  Eventually, the facet joint nerve root regenerates—it grows back.  Facet joint pain may return, and Dr. Colon may recommend a repeat procedure.

Procedure preparation

Dr. Colon and his medical staff provide specific written instructions well in advance of your procedure appointment.  It may be necessary for you to stop taking certain medications before RF neurotomy.  Dr. Colon and his medical staff are available to discuss your concerns or answer questions.  We are here to help you!

About the procedure

RF neurotomy is performed in a sterile setting.  After you change into a gown and lie down, medications are given intravenously (IV) to relax you.  In the procedure suite, you are comfortably positioned on the treatment table.  A cushion is placed either under your chest—for cervical neurotomy or abdomen, for lumbar neurotomy.  The skin area is cleansed using a sterile soap.  A local anesthetic is injected and numbs the skin and underlying tissues.  Dr. Colon keeps you comfortable during the entire procedure.

Fluoroscopy (real-time x-ray) is used for precise guide needle placement.  A small electrode is carefully guided to the target nerve and heated to cauterize (burn) the nerve.  The electrode and needle is removed and the skin area is covered by a small bandage.

After neurotomy

In the recovery area, your vital signs are closely monitored.  Before releasing you home, we provide written home-care instructions, including information about resuming medications.

Dr. Colon, or a member of his medical staff telephones you the day after your procedure to follow up. We encourage you to keep a pain journal to record any discomfort, pain or other symptoms.  Your notes help our doctors measure your response to the RF neurotomy procedure.