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What is Rhizotomy?

Rhizotomy is a non-surgical, minimally-invasive procedure sometimes used to treat the pain and symptoms of chronic facet disease. In this procedure, the diseased facet levels are identified and the nerves leading to the painful facet joints are localized. A small needle is inserted adjacent to the nerve and the nerve is destroyed using radiofrequency (RF) energy. The procedure is repeated at multiple levels to best treat the source of the pain.

Rhizotomy Explained


More about the Process

The procedure is performed with the patient lying on his or her stomach on a table equipped with state of the art imaging technology to help the interventional radiologist precisely locate and work with the affected nerve blocks. After numbing the area, small needles are placed adjacent to the problem sensory nerves and these are then treated with radiofrequency energy.

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What To Expect

The rhizotomy procedure will be performed as an outpatient by experienced interventional radiologists. The procedure is delicate and, depending on the patient’s condition, may take an hour to complete. You will be sedated during the procedure, with the areas on the back made numb with medications being provided to help keep you comfortable.

After being prepped by medical staff, you will lie face-down on a special table while the radiologist first inserts a tiny needle near the problematic nerve root. To verify proper placement, the nerve roots may be stimulated with low-voltage electricity to identify which muscles contract in response to the shock. The radiologist will then further anesthetize the nerve and apply heat to it with the needle’s electrode, thus severing its communication link with the diseased facet joint. Because your feedback to the doctors is important during this procedure, your comfort and your condition will be monitored closely at all times.


Results

After the procedure, you will be moved to a recovery room and should rest for some time while your condition is monitored. You may feel some numbness due to the anesthesia for the first few hours. Improvement is usually noticed two to three weeks following the procedure, although it may take several months before full relief from the pain can fully resolve.