Radiofrequency (RF) Ablation

What Is Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a medical procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to generate heat and destroy abnormal tissue. This minimally invasive procedure is used to treat various medical conditions.

What Conditions Can Be Treated with Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation can be used to help with:

  • Chronic Pain Management for Conditions Like Spinal Arthritis (Spondylosis)
  • Pathologic fractures of the bones of the spine
  • Painful metastases to other bones
  • Painful benign lesions of the bone such as osteoid osteoma


  • How the Procedure Works

    How the Procedure Works

    Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that typically involves a small incision being made in the skin followed by insertion of a thin needle or probe which is directed to the target site under imaging guidance. This reduces the need for large surgical incisions and can lead to shorter recovery times compared to traditional surgery.

    Generating Radiofrequency Energy: A specialized device generates high-frequency electrical currents, typically in the range of radiofrequency waves. This energy is directed from the tip of the probe into the target tissue.

    Creating Heat: When the radiofrequency waves reach the target tissue, the resistance of the tissue to the electrical current generates heat.

    Tissue Destruction: The heat generated by the radiofrequency waves causes the abnormal tissue, such as tumors or damaged nerves, to be destroyed. This is especially useful in treating conditions like certain types of cancers, and pain from certain nerve conditions.

    Post-Procedure Recovery: Recovery time can vary depending on the specific condition being treated but is typically very short on the order of just a few hours to a few days.


  • Common Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures

    Common Radiofrequency Ablation Procedures

    Radiofrequency Ablation for Back Pain

    Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) for back pain is a minimally invasive procedure used to alleviate chronic lower back pain that originates from the facet joints of the spine. Facet joints are small joints located between each vertebra that can become a source of pain due to arthritis or other degenerative conditions. During the procedure, a specialized needle is used to apply radiofrequency energy to the nerves that supply these facet joints, disrupting their ability to transmit pain signals.

    Radiofrequency Ablation for Spine Fractures and Bone Pain caused by Cancer

    Some forms of cancer metastasize, or spread, to the bones. As the cancer cells replace the normal bone cells the bones become weakened and can fracture spontaneously. When this happens to the bones of the spine it can cause a great deal of pain. Additionally, as some cancers grow in the bones they can cause bulging or pressure on the periosteum, the nerve rich outer sleeve that encases all bones. This can also cause cancer related bone pain.

    Radiofrequency ablation can be used to target these cancerous deposits effectively killing off many of the cancerous cells. This is often done in combination with cement augmentation where a liquid bone cement is injected into the fractures site where it hardens and stabilizes the bone. This combination procedure can effectively reduce pain, stabilize the fracture and prevent additional fractures.

  • Radiofrequency Ablation Side Effects

    Radiofrequency Ablation Side Effects

    While radiofrequency ablation is generally considered safe and effective, there are some potential side effects to be aware of, including:

    • Temporary Discomfort: Patients may experience some discomfort or soreness at the site of the procedure. This is typically mild and temporary.
    • Skin Redness or Swelling: Mild redness or swelling could occur at the treatment site, usually resolving within a few days.
    • Numbness or Tingling: In some cases, patients may experience temporary numbness or tingling around the area where the procedure was performed. This is typically due to the nerve-related nature of the treatment.
    • Bruising: Bruising can occur at the needle or catheter insertion site. This is usually minor and resolves on its own.
    • Infection or Bleeding (Rare): There is a small risk of infection or bleeding at the site of the procedure. Careful sterilization techniques are used to minimize these risks.
    • Allergic Reaction (Rare): Some patients may have an allergic reaction to the materials used in the procedure, though this is extremely uncommon.

Patient Experiences

Every day, DRI Greensboro strives to ensure patients have the best possible experience before, during and after their exams and procedures. It shows in patient feedback.

The doctor and the staff working with him were very kind, helpful and courteous.

Submit a story about your experience at DRI Greensboro.

Resources & Forms

Below are some medical forms and educational materials relating to your imaging procedure. Before your appointment at DRI Greensboro, you may wish to download, print and complete medical forms and review educational materials. Completing medical forms in the privacy of your home can save you time and effort when you arrive. 

Patients scheduled for a radiofrequency ablation procedure can find additional resources about the exam, including other photos and videos.

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