Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) Alternative Pain Therapy

Although there are many causes of back pain, one of the more common is facet arthritis. The facet joint provides stability to the vertebral column of the back and the facets in the lower back often develop debilitating back pain. One might experience pain with rising from a sitting position or from riding in a car. Bending forward can cause severe aching.

One of the treatments for this type of back pain is radiofrequency ablation (RFA), which addresses the nerve that transmits the pain.  By stunning this nerve, the pain can be stopped for up to a year, until the nerve regrows back to the facet joint. RFA is a minimally invasive procedure that uses imaging (CT scanner) to help a physician in placing a needle right to the site where the nerve approaches the facet joint. After appropriate numbing, the tip of the needle is inserted and used to heat a small area of the nerve tissue. After 90 seconds, the nerve is stunned and no longer transmits any pain until it regrows. RFA patients experience almost immediate relief and remarkably most do not need a retreatment for at least a year.

It is quickly becoming a preferred treatment because it is so helpful for the patient’s pain relief, has minimal risk, reduces the use of pain medication, and requires little to no down time for recovery. The procedure is now offered by Edson Knapp, MD, board-certified radiologist at SPH, and is covered by most insurances.

Because there are many causes of back pain your doctor may require that you have an MRI of your back prior to having this treatment. It is important to understand what is causing your pain so as to receive the correct treatment. In addition to RFA, South Peninsula Hospital offers a complete and holistic approach to help you with your back pain. Ask your primary care doctor if you might be a good candidate for RFA, or call the hospital’s imaging department at 235-0362 to learn more.

Edson Knapp, MD
Interventional Radiologist and Medical Director at South Peninsula Hospital’s Imaging Department
Fellowship Trained in Oncologic Imaging and Interventional Radiology
Board Certified in Radiology